Bonnie J. Addario
Co-Founder, Chair, GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer; Board Member, Personalized Medicine Coalition
In the past five years, the health industry has invented better, more efficient ways to diagnose and cure lung disease in every person, regardless of circumstance.
Hippocrates made a keen observation more than 2,400 years ago. “It is more important to know what kind of patient has the disease than what kind of disease the patient has,” he said.
This statement could not ring truer in today’s world. It is the driving force behind the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer. Further, it is uniting doctors, researchers, patients, and industry partners to better customize healthcare to an individual’s biological characteristics and circumstances. In the past five years, those at risk of or diagnosed with lung cancer are benefiting from early detection and new treatment discoveries than in the last five decades. These breakthroughs are revolutionary and life extending — specifically because they are providing more precision-based care.
Detection is the first step
The first step of personalized treatment begins with early detection. From there, patient care moves on to diagnosis, multiple disciplinary care, and survival. To that end, one of the GO2 Foundation’s key strategic goals is ensuring comprehensive biomarker testing. Biomarker testing, also known as genetic testing, identifies specific characteristics in cancer cells that are unique to each patient.
Think of it this way: our body print is as unique as our fingerprint. When biomarkers are identified, treatment can be targeted and personalized to a specific patient’s needs. The GO2 Foundation has several patient support and research programs that help drive and improve this type of precision medicine. For example, the Centers of Excellence program promotes access to comprehensive biomarker testing, multi-disciplinary care, and corresponding patient education and support at community hospitals throughout the country.
Research, research, research
In collaboration with the Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute, another cornerstone of the foundation’s work and commitment to patients is a research portfolio which studies unique lung cancer characteristics, precision therapies, treatment resistance, and emerging survivorship issues. The research allows the GO2 Foundation to understand how new medications affect patients holistically.
The GO2 Foundation’s research includes subpopulations who may need different treatment paradigms such as women or young people who are diagnosed with lung cancer. They are also devoted to ensuring inclusive research through projects that help encourage underserved and diverse populations to participate in clinical studies. Learning from the broadest population helps tailor care to each unique individual. And now, this research includes how lung cancer patients are affected by COVID-19 and how to ensure the best outcomes for those infected.
Indeed, the focus on individualized precision care is even more critical with the emergence of COVID-19. While the virus has unleashed an unprecedented upheaval in our health care delivery system, it has also provided new opportunities to study and understand how people living with and being treated for lung cancer respond to the virus based on their individual diagnosis. Discovering how patients can best avoid the virus, and how it can be managed and treated based on specific cancer characteristics, will drive healthcare closer to patients and their needs and treatments. Besides overcoming fears, this includes undertaking thoughtful conversations that explain the value of treatment, treatment modifications, and alternatives during the pandemic.
With this in mind, the GO2 Foundation’s Lung Cancer Living Room series was transformed into a virtual discussion at the start of the pandemic, which enabled them to continue the invaluable discussions between specialists, physicians, and researchers towards patients and advocates. In addition to the Living Rooms, GO2 Foundation’s LungMATCH program allows any patient or caregiver to speak to a treatment or trial specialist — free of charge — to understand their treatment options and help make the best choices with their treatment team.
In the future, COVID-19 will prove to be a new beginning in cancer care that goes far beyond what current healthcare is delivering today. Now more than ever, researchers, doctors, and patients must work closely together to determine what is in the best interest of each individual patient. This is emblematic of personalized medicine and care — past, present, and future.