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Personalized Medicine

Personalized Medicine: It’s all about the fit of the genes – January 19, 2011

Personalized medicine focuses on treating the individual rather than the disease. It uses the patient’s medical history to select or optimize that patient’s preventative and therapeutic care.  At this SickKids Café Scientifique, researchers from SickKids and the University of Toronto discussed key issues in personalized medicine.

  • Panelist Dr. Seema Mital discussed pharmacogenetics, the study of how genes influence an individual’s response to drugs. She informed the audience that one in five people suffer from an adverse drug reaction, and the annual cost of treating these cases is very high. Dr. Mital discussed options to prevent these incidents including administering a genetic test to determine how a patient will metabolize a drug. Since everyone’s genome is different, individuals’ reactions to the same drug will be different as well.
  • Panelist Dr. Stephen Scherer discussed current applications of personalized medicine in Canada including his own breakthrough work in genetics research, specifically in the field of autism spectrum disorder. He spoke about how we can use genome sequencing to better understand ourselves.
  • Panelist Dr. Michael Szego, opened the ethical debate concerning future applications of genetics and personalized medicine and the risks associated with self-analysis genetic testing. He asked the room to consider if anyone would want to know the genome sequence of their child, even if it meant knowing they would develop a disease later on in life. He also discussed the issues around genome sequencing as a consumer product, and how we should be careful with the results, citing privacy and lack of full knowledge as two major considerations.

This Café Scientifique spurred a lively discussion amongst attendees covering the themes of social or cultural implications of DNA sequencing; sharing of knowledge and data among researchers, private industry and globally between countries; and the effects personalized medicine might have on the costs of health care delivery.

Dr. Seema Mital, Associate Scientist, Genetics & Genome Biology and Staff Cardiologist, SickKids; Associate Professor, Paediatrics and Roma and Marvin Auerback Professor of Developmental Biology and Congenital Heart Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
Dr. Stephen Scherer
, Senior Scientist, Genetics & Genome Biology, Director, The Centre for Applied Genomics, Co-Director, the Centre for Genetic Medicine, SickKids; Profossor, Department of Molecular Genetics, Director, McLaughlin Centre, University of Toronto
Dr. Michael Szego
, Clinical Ethicist, Centre for Clinical Ethics and Research Ethics consultant, McLaughlin Centre, University of Toronto
Moderator: Gwen Burrows, Director, Strategic Projects, Research Operations, SickKids;  President, Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs

Personalized medicine poster