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Expanding the Reach of Precision Medicine: Dr. Bruce Johnson, Dana Farber Cancer Institute


Dr. Bruce Johnson, Chief Clinical Research Officer from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, joins us to discuss how recent advances in treating rare cancers can help drive the understanding and expansion of precision medicine.


In 2018, when Dr. Johnson was the president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), he and his team chose the theme, “Delivering Discoveries, Expanding the Reach of Precision Medicine” for their annual meeting in Chicago.


He says that by “expanding the reach of precision medicine,” they meant both being able to apply the principles of precision medicine to more tumors and ensuring that more practitioners of oncology, not just those in academic centers, can use precision medicine to treat their patients.

During that presentation, Dr. Johnson highlighted five studies of rare tumors to show how precision medicine can make a powerful impact. We asked what the role of gene sequencing is in his examples of approaches that are working, and he noted that most clinicians only need 20 to 40 genes to manage the lifespan of a cancer patient.


However, he added that because all the genes that can be targeted have not yet been discovered, it is often better for both clinical purposes and research purposes to run large panels to learn as much as possible about the genes that may be related to cancer.

We asked Dr. Johnson what he sees as some of the pitfalls and opportunities for making this approach routine enough to be covered by payers. He feels clinicians must continue to work with payers and generate evidence that precision medicine can transform the care of patients.


He also pointed out that large panels are often less expensive than ordering one test after another, and believes that within the next several years both governmental as well as commercial payers would see this is an important thing to do for nearly all  patients.


There was much more to our discussion. We hope you listen to the full episode above. 

Download the full transcript of the episode here (pdf).


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