The Challenge of Precision Medicine -Kerianah M 

From the very beginning of chapter nine, Richard Harris wrote about interesting information which gave us another example of how biomedical research is incorrect or just completely unreliable. Carolyn Compton a pathologist spoke on the long wait to get cancer testing from specimens in her laboratory which Mr. Harris quotes her “A big colon gets put into a bag. It sits in the operating room until a circulating nurse gets around to putting it in the holding refrigerator in the operating room. At the end of the day, the same guy who delivers the mail at Mass General comes around and puts it into a cart. He takes it two buildings over, to the pathology department. There it goes into another bench to get logged in by a technician and it goes into a refrigerator. If it’s a three day weekend, the resident on call doesn’t come in until Tuesday, opens up the colon and takes a piece of the cancer and puts it into formalin.” (pg 197) This tells us the research on cancer specimens takes days and maybe even weeks to be brought to a physician to look at. This is very surprising considering the fact how life threatening cancer could be. 

Fast forward two pages in the chapter and we read about the HER2-positive breast cancer test, which is a breast cancer that test positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. 


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the tests were very accurate and reliable. This isn’t what Richard Harris found infact it was something very different. “About 20 percent of the time it reported that a tissue sample lacked the HER2 trait even though it was not there…. Either women who could benefit from Herceptin, a drug that targets HER2 weren’t getting it, or women were receiving an expensive drug that was not only worthless to them but also had side effects.” (pg 199) 
Father into the chapter he wrote about two other physicians, John Quakenbush and Benjamin Haibe-Kains from Boston who were also working with cancer research. They were recreating a test to compare two different results from major cancer treating drug trials. These drugs were designed to find and attack cancer genes in the body. They found a total of 15 drugs and approximately 5 hundred cancer genes and cell lines. Neither of their results were alike which was interesting. After getting their results they told Richard “How can you ever hope to take data from these cell lines and make a prediction you can take into patients? It just doesn’t work.” (pg 205) The two later revealed the error in their testing was during the “analytic process” 

Chapter 9 was mainly another example of how biomedical research isn’t being done correctly. 

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