Medicine, *BIG* Data and $$$

Another tour de force from SBM. How does one summarize? I almost blogged this NYT article about treating Leukmia last week but felt I had nothing to add (go read it!). I should have known SBM would deliver the goods, though.

Here’s the big data part:

Taking the results of the sequencing of the entire genome and RNAseq data and analyzing them allows scientists to probe the genome and transcriptome of cancers in a way that was never before possible. It produces an enormous amount of data, too, terabytes from a single experiment. At cancer meetings I’ve been to, investigators frequently refer to a “firehose” of data, petabytes in magnitude.

I’ll offer comment on this part:

There’s no doubt that “individualized” medicine will become increasingly a part of modern medical care, with the individualization based on sequencing the genomes and transcriptomes of patients. In just a few years, the price of a complete genome sequence has fallen from hundreds of thousands of dollars to around $15,000. True, that doesn’t count all the analysis and that’s $15,000 per genome, which means at least $30,000 to sequence a normal and cancerous genome. There are, however, lots of things we do in medicine that cost $15,000. The price doesn’t have to come down much more before whole genome sequencing starts to look doable for individual patients. After all, gene tests like the OncoType DX cost on the order of $3,000 to $4,000, and we now order this test fairly routinely for patients with estrogen receptor-positive, node-negative breast cancer because in the end it saves a lot of patients from unnecessary chemotherapy.

The bottom line is that at some point every single person is going to get their genome sequenced. That’s about 4m newborns per year after the backlog of 330m+ people. But here’s the thing with cancer, it’s a genetic disease, which means that the cancer itself has a different genome than yours. Finding those differences is the entire point of genetic therapy.

So $3,500 per genome x 35,000 leukemia patients per year = $122m of new health care costs per year. No big deal, right? Well how about the 1.5m people who get diagnosed with all cancers per year?

Genome sequencing is going to be a gigantic business very, very soon. The health care cost curve is bending, all right.

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