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Building Blocks to Further Precision Medicine

 In this section you will learn that:

Increasing federal support for biomedical research is crucial to advancing precision medicine and making continued progress against cancer.

Regulatory science and policy play a key role in advancing precision medicine and making continued progress against cancer.

Federal support is needed to continue to develop and train the biomedical research workforce of tomorrow.

Patient and caregiver perspectives need to be considered as an integral part of advancing precision medicine. 

Precision medicine can play an important role in the prediction and prevention of disease.

Thanks to the efforts of countless researchers across the entire biomedical research continuum, we have made great progress in our understanding of the molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying the collection of diseases that we call cancer, which in turn has made possible the development of new methods for preventing, detecting, diagnosing, and treating cancer.

In fact, in the 12 months between Aug. 1, 2014, and July 31, 2015, the FDA approved nine new anticancer therapeutics, one new cancer prevention vaccine, and one new cancer screening test (see Table 1​). During this period, the FDA also approved new uses for six previously approved anticancer therapeutics and one imaging agent.

This progress would not have been possible without federal support for the NIH, NCI, and FDA. 

Nowhere is this progress more apparent than in the emerging field of precision medicine. At its very essence, precision medicine is treating patients based on the characteristics that distinguish that individual from other patients with the same disease, and the field of oncology has been leading the way in the development of precision treatments (see Treating Cancer More Precisely).

On Jan. 30, 2015, President Obama announced plans for a new Precision Medicine Initiative that would capitalize on the existing foundation of precision oncology, with the goal of extending precision medicine treatments to all forms of cancer and many other diseases. To make this a reality will require robust, sustained, and predictable funding increases for the NIH and NCI, who are leading this effort. Additionally, it is essential to develop mechanisms to involve patients more directly in the development of new treatments (see sidebar on Building Blocks to Further Precision Medicine​).