Danielle Barron speaks to FT3 board member Dr. Benedikt Westphalen, Head of Molecular Diagnostics and Therapy Program and the Molecular Tumour Board, Comprehensive Cancer Centre, University Munich, Germany
Dr Benedikt Westphalen is a medical oncologist and molecular biologist, focusing on gastrointestinal oncology and precision oncology. For the last four years, he has been building a precision oncology program at the University of Munich.
Oncology has been transformed in recent years by the concept of personalized medicine. Westphalen explains that, in his field, personalized medicine covers “multiple aspects”.
“The most comprehensive statement would be ‘the right treatment, for the patient at the right time’,” he says. “This covers all aspects from assessing the patient’s prevalence, working with a multidisciplinary team to design and discuss a personalized treatment plan to then realize this plan together with the patient.”
Unsurprisingly, Dr Westphalen is of the belief that personalized medicine should not be a “nice to have”, but rather an essential approach to patient care. In this setting, it is important “to have all necessary tools at hand” to offer patients the most comprehensive oncological care, Westphalen states.
“True personalized medicine, going beyond only focusing on certain aspects in the continuum of oncological care, should be the goal of every practicing oncologist to achieve the best outcome for every individual patient,” he states.
As a healthcare professional and research scientist, Westphalen practices personalized medicine every day. But he believes that the multi-stakeholder collaboration involved in the FT3 project will bring it to the next level.
“FT3 covers an important aspect in personalized medicine, namely the interplay between comprehensive biomarker testing and treatment decisions based on the individual profile of a patient’s tumor. Modern oncology increasingly depends on this interplay.”
Yet, there are still many roadblocks in place, which prevent caregivers from offering both modern tumor testing and innovative targeted agents to their patients. We can only overcome these roadblocks by working together in a dedicated team, he adds. To this end, he has great faith in the objectives of the FT3.
“This multi-stakeholder non-profit initiative has a strong focus on patients’ needs and strong backing within industry, this makes for a very good start to create sustainable projects and ultimately lasting value”.
While Dr Westphalen has been working in personalized medicine for a couple of years, he is still very excited about the potential of the FT3 project.
“I hope that we will be able to form a group of dedicated people, growing together with the aim to drive all aspects of precision oncology ultimately improving care for our patients.”