Curing Cancer Starts With Prevention

“We have forgotten that curing cancer starts with prevention of cancer in the first place.” Dr. David Agus, author of The End of Illness

Dr. Agus is a prominent cancer researcher who’s views on cancer are apparently radical (although seem logical to me). In an article about him in Fortune (2/27/12), it talks about how use of statins lowered cancer rates by 40% (although why isn’t known). It also talks about how inflammation is linked to diseases like heart attacks, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes and how taking a baby aspirin might curb inflammation.

He’s gone on to be part of the founding team at Navigenics and then subsequently Applied Proteomics.

Navigenics, Inc. develops and commercializes genetics-based products and services to improve individual health and wellness. Navigenics educates and empowers individuals and their physicians by providing clinically actionable, personalized genetic insights about disease risk and medication response to catalyze behavior change and inform clinical decision-making. The company was founded by leading scientists and clinicians, and continues to advance genomic knowledge and adoption of molecular medicine through studies with leading academic centers. Navigenics’ services are available through employer wellness programs and health plans, as well as through physicians and medical centers.

Proteomics, the study of proteins expressed by the body, has the greatest potential for biomarker discovery. Protein expression profiles, determined from easy-to-collect body fluids (e.g., blood, urine, saliva, etc.), represent a snapshot of the current health status of an individual, a sum of the influence of genetics and environment. However, assaying such markers is not without its challenges, and proteomics has failed in the past due to immature technologies and a lack of process control. Lack of control adds noise and variability that block effective biomarker discovery and validation.

Applied Proteomics, Inc. was founded in May 2007 by Dr. Danny Hills (Applied Minds, Inc.) and Dr. David Agus (USC-Keck School of Medicine) to make proteomics-based biomarker discovery practical and productive. Using their combined expertise in oncology, proteomics, systems control, and computation, the company has developed the leading protein biomarker discovery platform. API’s systems control and computational expertise as well as recent technological innovations (e.g., improved instrumentation, faster computing, and extensive genome annotations) make proteomics-based biomarker discovery possible as a replicable, industrial application. API has demonstrated that its approach leads to superior data (better signal, less noise), which leads to better results (more protein features and biomarkers observed). Better results will lead to improved diagnostics and a more efficient and effective healthcare system.

The article talks about several negative reactions to his philosophies, but I must agree that a simple approach to prevention seems much easier to live with then complicated treatment plans on the backend.

At the same time, I was talking with an oncologist the other day about the fact that you’re seeing more and more long-term cancer survivors and what their needs are from the healthcare system. This is changing the needs of the system, but it also is complicating the data that physician’s see. If you base your perception of success on survival, the data is skewed based on earlier screening. (see Reuters article)

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