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Feature:
Precision Medicine

Cancer Survivor Eric Dishman Is On a Precision Medicine Mission

Eric Dishman, Director, Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program
Photo Courtesy of: Intel Corporation

“I am totally motivated to support precision medicine because I am one of the early prototype patients whose life was saved by it,” said Eric Dishman.

Dishman is the first Director of the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort Program. He is leading NIH’s effort to build the PMI landmark research study of one million or more U.S. volunteers to improve health and treat disease through precision medicine.

”After battling a rare form of kidney cancer for 23 years,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, “and advocating personally for more than a thousand other cancer patients, Dishman became cancer-free thanks to early access to precision medicine that clarified the right treatment plan for him.”

"I have been put on this earth—and survived a seemingly impossible cancer journey—to help bring precision medicine to everyone."

What Is Precision Medicine?

Precision medicine is a medical approach that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles. It gives medical professionals resources to target the specific treatments of the illnesses we encounter, develops scientific and medical research, and keeps families healthier.

As Dishman said, “I had a whole genome sequence, and a chance encounter with a scientist, and after 23 years of trial and error chemotherapy that I had to suffer through, they, suddenly, with precision medicine, said ‘We didn’t understand what was wrong with you; now we do.’ Months later, I had chemotherapy. Cured my cancer. A kidney transplant. And I’m healthier at age 47 than I was at age 19. That was the power of precision medicine.”

PMI Cohort Program

The PMI Cohort Program seeks to extend precision medicine to all diseases by building a research cohort of one million or more U.S. participants. Many factors make now the right time to begin this program—Americans are working to improve their health and participating in health research more than ever before, electronic health records have been widely adopted, genomic analysis costs have dropped a lot, data science has become increasingly sophisticated, and health technologies have become mobile.

A Thought Leader

In naming Dishman director of the PMI Cohort Program, NIH Director Collins noted Dishman’s unique background “as a social scientist and researcher, entrepreneur and business leader, patient and patient advocate, and policy advocate and thought leader.

“He has pioneered and co-founded some of the nation’s first and largest research/policy programs focused on telehealth, personal health records, independent living technologies for seniors, and behavioral markers for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, and heart disease,” Collins said. “Dishman is widely recognized as a global leader on home and community-based care and personalized care, as well as for inventing innovation techniques that incorporate ethnography, the systematic study of people and cultures, and other social methods into the design and development of new technologies.”

“I have been put on this earth—and survived a seemingly impossible cancer journey—to help bring precision medicine to everyone,” Dishman said.

Goals of the Precision Medicine Initiative

The near-term goals of the Precision Medicine Initiative include intensifying efforts to apply precision medicine to cancer through:

  • Innovative clinical trials that target drugs for adult and children's cancers
  • Use of combination therapies
  • Expanding our knowledge on how to overcome drug resistance

The longer-term goal is for research based on data generated from the group of more than 1 million participants to:

  • Help target the right drug for the right patient at the right dose
  • Identify new targets for treatment and prevention of disease
  • Test whether mobile devices can encourage healthy behaviors
  • Lay the scientific foundation for precision medicine for many diseases

Find Out More

Summer 2016 Issue: Volume 11 Number 2 Page 22-23