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Mayo Clinic Takes 'Holistic' Approach to Personalized Medicine

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, October 11, 2012

When Gianrico Farrugia, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine, thinks of where personalized, or individualized medicine, is today, he harkens to the early days of Bluetooth  back in the 1990s, when the wireless technology was just about to take off.  

"It was at the point of being past the first phase, like high-risk ventures that were more likely to fail. That's where we are with individualized medicine. We are past that point, and into the implementation phase," Farrugia  told me. "We find ourselves designing the future of medicine through personalized medicine."

The focus of personalized medicine is to tailor a patient's medical care based on his or her individual genetic makeup. The evolving technology that has thrust genetic sequencing into the forefront of patient care has moved quickly, and there doesn't seem to be an "insurmountable barrier" to beginning its implementation in a few years, according to Farrugia.

The Mayo Clinic is a major player in that unfolding scenario. Last month, it opened its Individualized Medicine Clinic at three of its locations: in Minnesota, Florida,  and Arizona. There, clinical trials are beginning to focus on diseases that have eluded traditional diagnosis, or in treating intractable cancers.

Patients enrolled at Mayo Clinic Florida are diagnostic odyssey cases, people whose symptoms are suspected of having an underlying genetic condition or heritable cause. At Mayo Clinic Arizona, researchers have been using whole genome sequencing to look for novel treatments for incurable cancers.

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