Nov 30 2010
James R. Heath: Personalized Medicine, Molecular Diagnostics, and Cancer

James R. Heath: Personalized Medicine, Molecular Diagnostics, and Cancer

Dec 1, 2010 8:00 PM
Beckman Auditorium
FREE; no tickets or reservations required
Presented By: Caltech Committee on Institute Programs

Over the past decade, cancer drugs have evolved from chemotherapy treatments that target all fast growing cells, to drugs that are increasingly targeted to the specific molecular lesions of cancer. This trend will almost certainly accelerate into the foreseeable future. The net result is that certain patients can exhibit very rapid responses to treatments, often with fewer toxic side effects.

However, the increased precision of drug targeting has also translated into a smaller percentage of patients that respond to a given drug. This trend has heightened the importance of molecular diagnostics. Molecular diagnostics typically involves measurements of the genome, or of the proteins that are encoded by the genome, or both. In principle, molecular diagnostic information is used to match the right patient with the right drug. This trend towards targeted therapeutics that are prescribed based upon a detailed molecular knowledge of a given patient, is at the heart of the emerging world of personalized medicine.

The realization of this new world is fraught with many scientific, technical, and cultural challenges. This lecture will first provide a contextual framework for personalized medicine, and then move towards discussing state-of-the-art molecular diagnostic technologies that are just now passing through initial clinical trials. It will conclude with a look towards the future.

James R. Heath is the Elizabeth Gilloon Professor and Professor of Chemistry at Caltech.

Series: Earnest C. Watson Lecture Series
For more information, please call (626) 395-4652 or email

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