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Clinical Trials Are the Key to Furthering Personalized Medicine

Clinical Trials Are the Key to Furthering Personalized Medicine

Note: This editorial was originally published in the Toronto Star and on healthinsight.ca. Find the original editorial here

Editorial by Susan Marlin, President & CEO, Clinical Trials Ontario

Personalized medicine is changing healthcare. It allows us to tailor prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases to individual patients, based on a deep understanding of their genetic and molecular profile. Clinical trials are vital to moving this innovative approach to medicine forward. As one of North America’s largest clinical trials jurisdictions, Ontario is helping to make personalized medicine a reality for patients.

The field of personalized medicine took off with the completion of the Human Genome Project, when researchers completed an accurate sequence of the human genome. Genomics and related fields of study have improved our understanding of the human body and significantly changed the way we treat disease. Patients with melanoma, metastatic lung, breast and brain cancer, and leukemia are now routinely offered a ‘molecular diagnosis’ in some clinical centres, allowing for tailored treatments. Beyond cancer, research in personalized medicine is allowing for more precise treatment of conditions such as depression and anxiety, HIV, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease and liver disease.

Many of the drugs used in personalized medicine are still under study in clinical trials or will be entering clinical trials in the coming years. Clinical trials are central in getting personalized medicine to more patients as they show researchers the efficacy and safety of medications and generate the evidence needed to fully harness this innovative approach to therapy. Ontario is known as a leader in innovative clinical trials and personalized medicine presents an incredible opportunity.

In fact, we’re already advancing research in personalized medicine and attracting industry investment in this field. The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital, and Assurex Health are working together to research ways to replace the current trial-and-error approach to psychiatric medication by matching the right medication and dose to each patient-based on their genetic makeup. Just this past year, a Toronto-based drug development company called Triphase Accelerator struck a collaborative deal with Celgene Corporation worth nearly $1 billion for a pre-clinical personalized medicine that targets the WDR5 protein for the treatment of blood cancers including leukemia. Also in 2019, The Ottawa Hospital developed an approach for experimental CAR-T cell therapy for cancer treatment, and is now leading the way nationally to test it in a clinical trial. These examples of advancements and investments only scratch the surface of the ground-breaking work occurring in Ontario.

Enabling timely, effective clinical trials in the emerging field of personalized medicine is necessary to deliver the treatments of tomorrow, today. Clinical Trials Ontario (CTO) plays a critical role in the clinical trials ecosystem in Ontario, collaborating with industry, institutions, patients, and the public to improve the environment for clinical trials. Our programs, including CTO Stream and QuickSTART, streamline processes to make clinical trials more efficient, all while maintaining the highest ethical standards. CTO is proud to support the advancement of personalized medicine to bring new therapies to patients more quickly.

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