Advances in biotechnology are paving the way for finding more effective treatments for diseases that otherwise would be incurable. On Tuesday, during his State of the Union address, President Obama announced plans to launch a Precision Medicine Initiative which he says will usher in the age of personalized medicine, to "bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes -- and to give us access to personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier."
The president's optimism about the promise of genomic medicine echoes the enthusiasm of many leaders in the medical field. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus spoke with Dr. Jose Baselga, physician-in-chief and chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, about how personalized medicine is rapidly changing treatment options and helping more patients survive the disease.
"We know that every cancer is different and now we can begin to design therapies and treatment that are really cool and that are specific for every personal cancer," said Baselga. He explained that personal genomics -- identifying genetic mutations that are the driving mechanism of an individual patient's cancer -- can help provide the right treatments. As many as 60 percent of Memorial Sloan Kettering's breast cancer patients are likely to receive more effective treatment thanks to progress in genomic research, Baselga said.
"We are going to be able to identify some gene that will tell us how to treat that particular patient," he said.
Immunotherapies are also rapidly changing cancer treatment. Baselga said when multiple mutations in a tumor are identified, oncologists can harness a patient's own immune system to fight the cancer, an approach that's worked well for melanoma and lung cancer.
Last February, Memorial Sloan Kettering used a targeted T-cell therapy on a group of 16 leukemia patients who'd otherwise run out and were unresponsive to chemotherapy. The physicians engineered the patients T-cells outside their bodies and injected them back in. Fourteen patients who received the T-cell therapy achieved complete remission.
Do these advances signal the beginning of the end of cancer? "I hope so," Baselga said. "With the knowledge of today, and science, the prospects are limitless."