For centuries in human history, one of the biggest problems in health has been the race to find a cure for major life-threatening diseases like cancer. Recently, the rise of genome sequencing research has alleviated some pains of illnesses and some even suggest the field has the potential to eradicate these epidemics altogether.
Eric Dishman, a leader of the “All of Us” campaign at the National Institutes of Health, has personal experience with this topic. According to Dishman, genome sequencing saved his life and decades worth of costly cancer therapy treatment. Dishman, who once suffered through cancer, is living proof and advertisement for his campaign which aims to analyze the genomes of a million Americans to cure diseases and treat illnesses such as cancer. Today, Dishman lives a healthy life and a new question in human history unfolds: will genome sequencing be the cure to illnesses like cancer?
Prior to getting his genome sequenced, Dishman struggled with a rare kidney cancer which forced him through years of chemotherapy, radiation, and pain.
He said, “I was probably going to die, and I was literally on my last business trip to both Boston and San Diego, where a lot of the early genomics work was being done.”
Dishman’s hope was fading until during that same business trip, an acquaintance suggested for him to receive genome sequencing for his tumor; Dishman took the chance.
After analyzing his genome sequence, health professionals determined that the workings of his rare kidney tumor functioned in similar ways to pancreatic cancer. This led to a prescription of drugs usually diagnosed to patients of pancreatic cancer which eradicated his tumor and improved his conditions for a kidney transplant. Now, Dishman lives cancer free.
“I just turned 50, and I am healthier now at 50 than when I was at 19, thanks to whole-genome sequencing,” he expressed.
This life transformation and outcome is what Dishman promotes with his campaign “All of Us”. He hopes greater populations can experience the same treatment to better their lives. With more research, recruitment, and campaigning of this program and field of science, Dishman hopes to develop greater personalized medicine and cures.
Genome sequence research has been performed and studied by Seattle biomedical researchers and University of Washington geneticists. “All of Us,” which promotes these studies, has a potential to advance the field drastically.
Currently, the program aims to recruit a diverse body of a million Americans to decipher their genetic codes. Moving forward, “All of Us” wants to trace the connection of the genes and analyze their health over the next decades.
Thousands of volunteers are being recruited for the study where they are required to provide blood and urine samples and medical history and records. Over 133,000 volunteers have registered, and more than 75,000 people have fulfilled the sampling prerequisites. The recruitment process emphasizes on the selection of diverse people, especially those that are typically underrepresented or disadvantaged in the field of biomedical research.
Dishman says, “This will be one of the most ambitious, audacious whole-genome sequencing efforts in human history.”
The board Institutes of Massachusetts, Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, and University of Washington’s Northwest Genomics Center will all contribute to the analysis of DNA samples. The gathered data will be utilized to discover the impact of genetic composition in health factors experienced by individuals. The personal information acquired in the project with all be held confidential for privacy reasons.
The most practical application of this data will be used in the field of pharmacogenomics where genetic analysis has the potential to indicate which drugs would be most effective to treat an individual’s condition. Though this personalized medicine may appear expensive now, the significance of its research and potential to save lives will contain benefits that outweigh the costs over decades.