Tag Archives: Personalized Medicine

Making Medicine Personal in Respiratory Health

Previously, we shared how we’re Making Medicine Personal for patients. We’re continuing the conversation by focusing on how we’re treating respiratory diseases.

Your health and that of your loved ones is one of the most important aspects of life. It’s also the most important aspect of our work. For more than 40 years, we’ve addressed respiratory challenges to improve millions of lives – and we’re not slowing down. We’re constantly developing new methods to advance quality of life while avoiding unnecessary costs and adding value to the overall healthcare system.

We understand that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in healthcare. Your cellular and molecular makeup is unique to you and you only. That’s why we’re focusing on tailored, individualized treatments to ensure that the right treatment is being delivered to the right patient.

Here’s how we’re doing this through innovation, patient assistance, and collaboration:


One of the main challenges of respiratory health is identifying the right dosage and treatment for each patient. With this in mind, we’re using new technologies, such as co-suspension technology, to enable consistent delivery of one or more different medicines in a single device, and we’re investigating biologics that have the potential to deliver uniquely targeted treatment for patients.

And that’s just the beginning. Access to proper treatment is the first step, but ensuring that patients maintain their treatments and adhere to doctor recommendations is equally important. Programs like Stay Connected Medication Adherence, AZCaRes™, and Health Journey Support allow us to be the patient’s coach and cheerleader.

“I’m so grateful for AstraZeneca’s savings cards. Your medicine has improved my asthma as the doctor believed it would.”

– AstraZeneca patient 

Hearing patients like the one above talk about how our programs have helped them brings meaning to our work. And that’s why we will never stop looking for ways to support and advocate for patients.

But we’re not in this alone. At AstraZeneca, we believe there is strength in numbers. Collaborative partnerships around the world enable us to pioneer research, technology, and awareness to improve patient outcomes. From working with the COPD Foundation to create one of the largest patient networks in existence, to collaborating with Adherium to explore the impact of technology on adherence, to annually partnering with the CHEST Foundation during World COPD Day and National COPD Awareness Month, our partnerships are key to our efforts.

At the end of the day, it’s our job to make sure our medicines bring value to you and the entire healthcare system. In future blog posts, we’ll share how we’re making medicine personal for patients living with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases as well as patients receiving cancer treatment. Stay tuned.

How We’re Making Medicine Personal

At AstraZeneca, we know your health is personal and that’s why we put careful consideration into determining the value and ultimately the cost of our medicines. Many factors go into these decisions such as the benefits our medicines provide to your health and their potential to reduce healthcare spending on other costlier medical procedures. Just as importantly, these decisions enable us to invest in discovering and developing future medicines where new treatments are needed.

So how do we balance providing affordable access to our medicines while ensuring their cost reflects the value they deliver to the individual patient and broader healthcare system? We understand the weight of this question. That’s why we spend countless hours not just thinking about it, but finding new ways to help you and those you care about receive the best care possible for medical conditions we focus on. We do this by developing innovative medicines and offering programs that are uniquely tailored to you. We’re also always looking for ways to make your medicines more affordable and we collaborate with stakeholders across the healthcare system in pursuit of this goal.

Put differently – if you need our medicines, we want you to have affordable access to them and for them to make a valuable difference to your health. Here’s how we’re making medicine personal through innovation, support, and collaboration:


Through innovative approaches, patient support programs, and key collaborations within the health and biopharmaceutical industry, we’re making medicine personal to improve your health, your care, and your future.

Our medicines represent an important part of America’s healthcare dollar and it’s our job to show how these treatments can bring value to you and the entire healthcare system. In future blog posts, we look forward to sharing more about the value our treatments provide and what we are doing to improve their accessibility and affordability.

Biopharmaceutical companies, such as AstraZeneca, lead the way in improving patient health and advancing medical innovation. Find out more here.

Redefining the Value of Care

By Paul Hudson, President, AstraZeneca US and Executive Vice President, North America

AZ_board_images_72dpi_1020px18Changes are happening right before our eyes as the world moves on from a one-size-fits-all approach. With recent advancements in wearables and mobile health technology, we are able to see what was once invisible – our steps, our calories, our sleep patterns. As patients and consumers, we’re becoming accountable. We’re demanding answers to questions. We’re taking our health into our own hands.

The game has changed across the healthcare industry, and discoveries in personalized medicine underscore just how. As we observe Lung Cancer Awareness Month, I am reminded of the incredible potential that personalized approaches offer for patients. According to the American Lung Association, lung cancer causes the most cancer deaths worldwide, accounting for 1.6 million deaths in 2012.

Science has come a long way. We’ve learned that not every case of lung cancer is the same, and we know that we can no longer treat the disease as a whole. Patients have different genetic mutations on their lung cells, some of which develop resistance to certain types of therapies and treatments. At AstraZeneca, we’re working to understand why resistance emerges to certain therapies so that we can design improvements in the drugs we use to overcome those mechanisms of resistance.

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Personalized Medicine Conference in Boston, presented by Partners HealthCare, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School, and I challenged the audience of key industry stakeholders to work differently to research and develop new medicines, and to collaborate more effectively to discover solutions for patients. Personalized approaches can help to eliminate guesswork, wasted money for payers and uncertainty for patients. Faster, better treatments can reduce doctor visits and hospital stays, ultimately reducing the overall cost burden on the healthcare system.

And while personalized healthcare is strongly associated with oncology therapies, its potential has far-reaching consequences for other therapeutic areas as well. Figures from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology suggest that over 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma. However, we’re increasingly finding that the triggers and drivers of these types of respiratory conditions differ from one individual to the next, and from one country or region to another. By taking a targeted approach, our scientists are working to show that asthma is not one disease, but many smaller clusters of diseases, each with a different cause. And each different cause requires a different treatment, not unlike cancer.

Paul Hudson PerMed 2015But these breakthrough innovations mean nothing if patients can’t access them. I am realistic that no single company has all the answers. We’re seeing the potential to begin aggregating large amounts of data through information-sharing across the healthcare system. At the same time, we need drug development teams and diagnostic partners to work alongside industry stakeholders and regulatory authorities to help shape the treatment pathways for personalized healthcare and support smart clinical trial design.

This important subject has been elevated to the highest levels of the government, and important dialogue is beginning to take place in the nation’s capital through initiatives like 21st Century Cures, the Senate HELP Committee’s Innovation for Healthier Americans Report and President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative. Many of these recommendations look to bring about incremental advancements in the way the FDA uses real world evidence, can lead to improvements in how the FDA approaches drug and device combination product reviews and can help to ensure that the agency is more broadly accepting of novel clinical trial designs.

It’s imperative that we evolve our pricing structure to better reflect this value – for both patients and healthcare stakeholders. Payers are beginning to use personalized approaches to data aggregation to assess the risk of beneficiaries, and the pharmaceutical industry is working with payers to partner on innovative ways to maximize the healthcare dollar. At AstraZeneca we’ve already started these types of partnering efforts by entering into agreements with large payers in the area of risk sharing, and also experimenting with various value-based and outcomes-based agreements.

Never before has there been so much hope for patients, and opportunities for those of us across the healthcare industry to make a significant difference. At the same time, if we’re unable to keep pace with the rapid changes all around us, we will have collectively failed so many. Many of the breakthroughs of tomorrow will only be possible through advancements in personalized medicines and a clear path to making them accessible to patients.

To read more from Paul Hudson, check out his guest blog post on the Personalized Medicine Coalition’s Education and Advocacy page.

Quick Guide to Top Oncology Terminology

New approaches to diagnosing and treating cancer are being discovered and implemented every year. The rapid evolution of terminology and new treatment concepts can be daunting for those not working directly in the medical or research fields. As we approach the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which brings together 30,000 oncology professionals from around the globe to examine the latest oncology research findings, we compiled the following list of cancer terms that patients, advocates, non-medical journalists and others might find useful.

1. Cancer Stem Cells – Many scientists believe that every cancer has a limited number of cells that are driving and sustaining the cancer. These cells act as stem cells which can keep the cancer going over the long term. For this reason, many scientists are interested in understanding and targeting cancer stem cells for future treatments.

For More Information: Stanford Medicine Center

2. Immuno-Oncology – Using a person’s own immune system, or components of the immune system, to fight cancer is not a new idea, though this area of cancer research has increased in recent years and has received significant media attention. Immuno-oncology can involve stimulating a person’s own immune system to attack cancer cells, or creating therapies using immune system components, like antibodies, to help the body fight off cancer.

For More Information: American Cancer Society

3. Personalized Healthcare – Each individual’s cancer has a unique set of genetic information and every tumor has its own set of mutations and genetic alterations. As we understand and can test for more of these changes, we will be better able to fit a person’s cancer treatment to the characteristics of their tumor. This idea of tailored treatment for each patient’s cancer is the goal of precision medicine.

For More Information: NIHCancer.Net

4. Epigenetics – There is more than just DNA inside a cancer cell. We know that the genome of a tumor (DNA) is important, but how that DNA gets turned on and off matters too. DNA is the blueprint for what goes on in the cell. Epigenetics helps us figure out how those blueprints are turned into cancer cells and tumors. As we understand more about how the cancer cells turn on and off sections of their genome, new targets for cancer therapy are emerging.

For More Information: Keystone Symposia

5. Resistance – Similar to how bacterial cells can be resistant to antibiotics, cancer cells can become resistant to cancer therapies. This resistance can be present prior to treatment or can result from mutations in the cancer’s genome acquired during treatment.

For More Information: Annual Review of Medicine, Mechanisms of Cancer Drug Resistance

6. Adjuvant/Neoadjuvant Therapy – After receiving primary therapy, cancer patients are often given a second type of therapy, known as an adjuvant therapy, to increase the chance of long-term disease free survival by killing any remaining cancer cells that might have escaped treatment by the primary therapy. When treatment is given before the primary therapy to make it more effective, this is called a neoadjuvant therapy.

For More Information: Cancer.gov

7. Therapeutic Vaccines – Cancer vaccines work similarly to any other vaccine, boosting the body’s natural ability to protect itself through an immune response. In the case of a cancer, the vaccine attempts to generate an immune response against an agent that causes cancer, such as a virus like hepatitis B, which can cause liver cancer, or directly against the abnormal cells that make up the cancer.A therapeutic vaccine is one that is given to a patient who already has cancer. There are currently many researchers investigating the use of vaccines to marshal a patient’s immune system to attack and kill cancer cells.

For More Information: National Cancer Institute

8. Nanotechnology/Nanomedicine – Nanoscale objects are constructs typically measuring less than 100 nanometers across. Nanotechnology is used in many industries including electronics, optics, and information technology, and has found applications in cancer diagnostics and treatment. It can be used to detect cancer cell abnormalities on very small scales, and there are currently many therapeutic nanomedicines under development that have the potential to be effective cancer treatments.

For more information: National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

9. Cancer Genomics – Almost every cell in a person’s body contains a full set of that individual’s DNA from the individual’s biological mother and father. Together, this DNA is called a genome. The full set of DNA that is found inside a cancer cell is called a cancer genome and it contains small changes that are passed from one generation of cancer cells to the next. These changes are responsible for making a cell cancerous rather than normal. Researchers are working to determine what changes turn a normal genome into a cancer genome, and how cancer genomes differ from one patient to the next.

For more information: National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer

10. Molecular Diagnostics – Diagnosing and understanding an individual’s cancer is becoming an ever more precise and important science. New techniques and tools are arising to allow physicians to learn about a patient’s cancer in less invasive ways. Molecular diagnostics examine markers from proteins to DNA that define the characteristics of an individual’s cancer. These tools can point clinicians to the best possible therapy, and identify potential new therapeutic targets for researchers.

For more information: Drug Discovery World

ASCO 2015 promises to be a socially charged event with live coverage throughout the meeting. Get the latest news from ASCO by following @ASCO on Twitter and join the conversation with #ASCO15. AstraZeneca will be covering the event on Twitter and Facebook.

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Personalized Healthcare: Early Diagnostics, More Targeted Treatment

By Paul Hudson, President, AstraZeneca US and Executive Vice President, North America

Families will come together to celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday, the same day Women’s Health Week begins in the United States. This time of year, in particular, makes me reflect on the opportunity we have in healthcare to profoundly impact the future of women’s health. New advancements in diagnostics and treatment have the potential to significantly improve women’s health – notably among ovarian, breast and lung cancer patients.

At AstraZeneca, we understand the healthcare system is moving away from a singular approach for all, and toward treating diseases with an increased focus on personalized healthcare.

The promise of personalized healthcare is clear: It can enable doctors to more quickly identify which treatments will be most effective for individual patients based on their genetic makeup. Personalized healthcare means we can identify when a potential treatment requires an individualized strategy at an early stage and develop an integrated diagnostic plan. This helps get the right treatments to the right patients at the right times – even faster.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of oncology, where more effective and targeted treatments are helping cancer patients live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Since its peak in 1991, the cancer death rate is down 20 percent and the five-year survival rate has climbed to 68 percent.

5.8.15 img 3

Despite this progress, there is still much work to be done. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States, and breast cancer remains the most common cancer among American women. Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system and is often diagnosed late because symptoms mirror everyday ailments.

5.8.15 img 2But there’s promise. For these women, it is vital that they understand their tumor type and hormone status so they and their doctors can tailor the most effective individual treatment plans possible. At AstraZeneca, we’re working side by side with leading scientists from different disciplines to better understand how complex data can be converted into innovative treatments. For example, over 80 percent of our pipeline across therapeutic areas is being developed with a personalized healthcare strategy and more than 30 programs have a companion diagnostic test.

For ovarian cancer in particular, up to 15 percent of women have a BRCA mutation, but nearly half of women with ovarian cancer and a BRCA mutation have no significant family history. Despite the fact that major guidelines recommend that all patients living with ovarian cancer be considered for BRCA testing, not all women living with ovarian cancer are tested. By collaborating with experts in diagnostics, we’re working to drive an increase in testing and a greater awareness of risks so that innovative treatments can be matched to those patients who will benefit most.

5.8.15 img 1We’re also using personalized approaches for testing lung cancer, which accounts for about 13 percent of all new cancer cases in the United States. There are currently limited options for treating patients with advanced or metastatic lung cancer. Targeted therapies and companion diagnostics may improve treatment outcomes for patients with epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation-positive advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). AstraZeneca has pioneered targeted lung cancer treatments, and we are committed to advancing knowledge of patient management and diagnostic testing in advanced NSCLC.

There continues to be significant positive news in our fight against cancer in the United States and around the world. Taken together, increased education, improved treatments and advanced diagnostic tools are helping doctors make faster, more accurate decisions that are helping patients lead healthier, longer lives.

Personalized Healthcare: More Targeted Medicines, Partnerships

By Paul Hudson, President, AstraZeneca US and Executive Vice President, North America

As science continues to evolve in the 21st century, medicine, treatments and diagnostics are getting smarter and more targeted to patient groups and individual patients. The healthcare system is moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to treating diseases and toward an increased focus on personalized healthcare, which tailors treatments to patients as effectively and efficiently as possible.

141021-Hudson-0285 prefAt AstraZeneca, we’re working relentlessly to do our part to provide more targeted treatments for patients – from the molecules in our pipeline to our partnerships throughout the healthcare sector.


Our medicines and our pipeline of new molecules are the foundation of everything we do. We know that identifying patient subgroups in which a medicine is most effective can help doctors make faster, more accurate treatment decisions. As patients continue to become increasingly involved in their own care, we’re seeing a need for innovative approaches to better deliver personalized, end-to-end treatments. This allows us to reach the right patients in the right ways at the right times with the right medicines – an important factor in successfully treating some of the world’s most deadly diseases. Investing in targeted therapies also provides the best economic value and cost savings for the healthcare system because the treatments reach precisely the patients they are intended to help, with the greatest amount of efficacy.

In order to determine the most appropriate treatment for patients, we need to be able to analyze in rapid form. At AstraZeneca, more than 80 percent of the molecules in our pipeline have been evaluated for their personalized healthcare potential. We estimate that nearly half of our product launches between now and 2020 will use a companion diagnostic to target the patients most likely to benefit. What happens to each individual patient is becoming more relevant, and we’re facing a situation for the first time where information and data are overlapping with medicines and research & development.

For example, tumor testing has long been the gold standard for determining a patient’s epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) status, which is seen in many patients with non-small cell lung cancer. However, many patients do not have a tumor sample or have one of insufficient quality to test. To reach these patients, AstraZeneca is collaborating to develop blood-based testing methods that detect minute quantities of DNA that can, in turn, detect mutations like EGFR.

Put simply, blood-based testing is faster, cheaper and less invasive for patients. Over time, these personalized approaches to care could have the potential to improve the overall survival rate of patients treated for cancer, giving us the potential to change outcomes for patients on a meaningful scale.

Health System Benefits

More targeted medicines and tests alone are not the only answer. In order to forge new approaches and generate the most value from innovation, we need to recognize that no one company has all the good ideas; it takes multiple partnerships and extensive collaboration to reach our goals. Partnerships are helping to drive more intense value and delivery across the industry, as highly skilled drug development teams and diagnostic partners are working with the world’s regulatory authorities to help shape the treatment pathways for personalized healthcare and support smart clinical trial design.

Innovative technologies allow for laser-guided patient focus. We can develop integrated biomarker and diagnostic plans that will speed development and deliver personalized treatments for patients. For example, Lung Cancer Master Protocol (Lung-MAP), for which AstraZeneca is a pioneering contributor, serves as a way to use genomic profiling to match patients to one of several investigational drugs that are designed to target genomic alternations found to be driving the growth of their cancer.

Working together – with researchers, regulators, payers, policymakers and key stakeholders – we can deliver more effective treatments on a patient-by-patient basis that will ultimately improve health for individuals, families and society as whole.

Paul Hudson is President, AstraZeneca US and Executive Vice President, North America. You can see him speak on medical research at Bloomberg here.

Personalized Medicine takes Spotlight at Thought Leader Event

Personalized medicine can take on many different meanings based on one’s perspective and experience, which made for lively debate as the topic took center stage at AstraZeneca’s latest thought leadership dinner held in Washington, D.C. in partnership with the National Journal. On Monday, October 20, AstraZeneca executives brought together industry leaders and stakeholders to discuss the current state and future of personalized medicine.


Rich Buckley, Vice President, North America Corporate Affairs and Dave Fredrickson, Vice President, Specialty Care, mingle with guests.

The event was the third of a series this year, the first focusing on patient centricity and the second on value in healthcare. Dave Fredrickson, Vice President, Specialty Care; Will Mongan, Vice President, Business Development, New Product Planning and Foundations Portfolio; and Rich Buckley, Vice President, North America Corporate Affairs led a group of 14 industry experts and executives – including patient advocates, providers, academia, media and other key stakeholders – in a discussion about the concept of personalized medicine

Participants agreed that the paradigm of treatment and delivery for care in today’s healthcare system is rapidly shifting, and patients are at the heart of this transformation. Many attendees also agreed that regulations need to keep pace with innovation, and that some level of collaboration will be necessary across the system in order for doctors, academia, payers, providers, regulators and drug companies to produce meaningful outcomes. This is complicated by the fact that the roles of these key stakeholders are changing, making it more difficult to reach a consensus about what matters to patients and what the guideposts for development should be.


(Left to right) Sheila Walcoff, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Goldbug Strategies, LLC; Marilyn Werber Serafini, Vice President, Policy, Alliance for Health Reform; Will Mongan, Vice President, Business Development, AstraZeneca; J. Russell Teagarden, Senior Vice President, Medical and Scientific Affairs, National Organization for Rare Disorders

Patients are becoming increasingly involved in their own care and diagnosis, along with their doctors. This allows greater potential for doctors to personalize patient care and to observe patients in real-time to improve outcomes and adherence. Attendees said that in order to determine the most appropriate treatment for patients, providers need to be able to analyze in rapid form. The current regulatory system contains administrative and procedural hurdles that call for more evidence and increased scientific validity. In order to keep up with the current transformation, we need to reexamine the burden of proof with respect to evidence, as well as approaches to clinical practice and innovation to ensure that treatments can become more patient-centric.


(Left to right) Paul Sheives, Director, Diagnostics and Personalized Medicine Policy, Biotechnology Industry Organization; Robert Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader Magazine; Sheila Walcoff, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Goldbug Strategies, LLC

While seeking a common definition for personalized medicine, some participants talked about it as a goal, others as an art or a tool; some defined it as precision medicine, and others thought the definition was unimportant. All participants agreed that the system must shift in terms of regulation, though some called for a fundamental redesign, while others asked simply for incremental changes. One participant added that no matter what we call it, we are all united in our collective goal to provide cures to patients in a world of transformation.

The dinner was part of a series of events coordinated by National Journal LIVE, a premier events business that convenes top leaders in the Washington, D.C. area to discuss possible solutions to the country’s biggest challenges.