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Precision medicine, big health data attack cancer

An expert pathologist argued, in this podcast, that precision medicine and combo drug therapy will succeed only by cooperation among companies, researchers and data scientists.

Rapid advances in genomics, big data and health IT analytics have spurred hope that precision medicine can make significant inroads against cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

Ralf Huss, M.D., an internationally known pathologist, researcher, professor and entrepreneur, argued in this podcast that real advances in combination drug therapy, a key precision medicine application, will come with cooperation among vendors, researchers and even governments.

"One of the challenges is to bring companies with different marketing strategies together for the wellbeing of patients, to test combinations with patients," Huss told SearchHealthIT. He's the chief medical officer of Definiens AG, a biomedical image and data analysis vendor involved in precision medicine that's based in Germany with American headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif.

Huss also said widely successful precision medicine will combine big data and IT strategies with biomedicine and traditional healthcare to analyze medical images, whether from X-rays or pathology slides, and use them to improve clinical decision-making.

So far, though, Huss said "most companies want to do a single blockbuster that will dominate the market and give substantial revenues for a long time" and make it difficult for other companies to enter the market.

At the same time, Huss said that even though he is speaking from a European vantage point, he thinks President Obama's precision medicine initiative is worthwhile in part because it includes key academic researchers from outside the business world.

One major problem precision medicine will have to overcome is reimbursement, Huss said. Not only do insurers rarely pay for precision, or personalized medicine, under fee-for-service or value-based reimbursement models in the U.S., but European payers also have been reluctant to do so, he said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writer or contact @ssutner on Twitter.

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