‘We have a growing scientific understanding of how unique diseases are, at an individual level’

by Apr 2, 2021

Making personalized healthcare an accessible reality for as many people as possible has been a priority for Sandra Blum of Roche’s Global Patient Partnership team for many years

Tell us more about yourself and your organization.

Sandra Blum – Roche

I am part of the Global Patient Partnership team at Roche. ‘Partnership’ is not just part of our name. It’s a mindset and way of doing things that is highly valued in our organization to develop solutions and medicines that truly meet the needs of individuals, communities and society. Personalized Healthcare is a major focus for Roche and it includes a shift from treating a disease to delivering better care.

What does personalized medicine mean to you? 

To me it means that my doctor knows me and my history, and it’s ok if that information comes from a medical record that follows me around wherever I go in the healthcare system or even the world. Together we are able to use all of the available resources to understand my health issues – imaging, diagnostic blood or tissue tests, whatever will give us the best information to work with. Then we discuss and agree on the treatment option(s) that we think will do the most to address my health issues while also taking into account how I like to live my life. And we stay connected to monitor how things are going and make informed decisions about changing course if that’s what we need to do. Plus, all my data will be shared with the right doctor and there is the possibility of improving medical care for others by sharing anonymised data with researchers. 

Why do you believe this topic is important?

Health and illness ultimately are very personal, both because of how we experience them but also because we have a growing scientific understanding of how unique diseases are at an individual level. Take cancer as an example. If I get breast cancer, it may be really different than my friend’s breast cancer because of my lifestyle, my body, and the specific ‘fingerprint’ or genetic characteristics of my cancer. In fact, now science is showing us that where a cancer starts – the breast, the colon, the lungs – is only part of the story. That ‘fingerprint’ or genetic make-up of the cancer may ultimately be a better way of understanding what’s driving it and finding the best way to treat it. I’m so passionate about this because it is personal for me, too: my mom died in her 50s of colon cancer. I still miss her pretty much every day. You never know if things could have turned out differently for mom if she had been diagnosed sooner or treated differently. We couldn’t save her but I do hope I can play a role in saving other people, and I think following the science to personalize cancer care, and healthcare in general, is the way forward.

Why is your organization interested in participating in this multi-stakeholder collaboration?

Our vision is to ensure that the screening, diagnosis, treatment and even prevention of diseases will more quickly and effectively transform the lives of people everywhere – ensuring the right treatment for the right patient at the right time. There has been amazing progress in personalizing healthcare over the last 20-plus years, but there is still so much further to go. And not just with research and new advances, but importantly in connecting people to what is available today but may be out of reach in their country or their community. No one can make that kind of change happen alone. We need to work together. FT3 Alliance is an exciting forum to partner with patients, medical experts, companies in biotech/biopharma and other organizations that all share a passion and commitment to making personalized medicine a reality for more people. Roche is so proud to be a FT3 member and collaborator. 

What has Roche been doing in this space?

I mentioned that personalized healthcare is a big focus for Roche. We have been really busy working on this for years! Just a few examples… we are bringing together divisions across the Roche group (imaging, diagnostics, pharma) to create integrated solutions that provide personalized healthcare. We have developed digital monitoring tools to make it easier for people to capture and share their health data with their doctors and manage their health. We have a variety of clinical trials looking across cancer types using molecular profiling and targeted treatments as well as capturing real-world data to understand outcomes and inform health system decision-making. Much of what we do is in partnership not only with patients but also with stakeholders in the medical, policy and research communities to collectively create an environment that is ready to deliver personalized healthcare to patients.

What makes this collaboration unique?

FT3 Alliance is a global multi-stakeholder organization focused on personalized healthcare. We have a tremendous opportunity to bring people together from all around the world and from different disciplines to learn about what has been successful and what remains to be done. And because we’re a global network, we can partner with other regional or country-level organizations that are trying to do similar things, so that together we can move faster or do more.

What are your ultimate expectations from the project?

Roche wants to be a part of the change that needs to happen to make personalized healthcare an accessible reality for as many people as possible. Working together, FT3 Alliance has to move quickly beyond analysis, debate and idea generation and into actions that have an impact in countries and communities around the world.

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