… is a place where scientists might quite like to be. At least if you can believe Professor Olli Kallioniemi from the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland. And you should believe him, because Professor Kallioniemi is not only a scientist with many accomplishments, but he is also one of the few people who is actually making personalised medicine happen.
I had the good fortune of hearing Professor Kallioniemi speak at Cancer Research UK Cambridge today, and I was blown away by their achievements on testing drug response on leukemia cancer cells. With most cancers, you are limited in the tests you can do by how much material you can take in a biopsy. Not so in leukemia, which is blood-borne, and thus only limited by how often you can take blood from a patient. The Finnish scientists capitalised on this by developing a pipeline for quickly applying many anti-cancer drugs on leukemia cells from actual patients.
The benefits are numerous. For one, you can get a prediction for which drug will help the patient most. But that’s not all; you can then get an idea of how resistance to given drugs evolves over time, because you can just keep taking samples from the patients as their disease progresses. This is truly personal medicine; they can see in real-time how a cancer is responding to a multitude of drugs, and change the treatment accordingly.
As a side note, Professor Kallioniemi also briefly addressed the recent controversy about two large-scale drug response studies on cell-lines. In a nutshell, the two studies don’t agree in their results. The Finnish team compared their results to both studies and found that one of them has higher agreement, while the other does not agree at all. He wouldn’t reveal which was which, probably to avoid ruffling any feathers. All I’ll say is that there might be a reason why he didn’t want to tell a team of Cambridge scientists…