Theodorescu Adds Voice to Precision Medicine Debate


By Mark Couch

(May 2015) Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of the CU Cancer Center, is not only leading advances in his laboratory at the Anschutz Medical Campus, he has become one of the leading voices in the national conversation about precision medicine.

Last September Theodorescu was an invited speaker at a roundtable of the “21st Century Cures Initiative” of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee.

Other speakers at the roundtable included Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Francis Collins, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Margaret Hamburg, MD, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“I think support of the biomedical enterprise represents a defining moment for this country,” Theodorescu told the panel, which has crafted bipartisan legislation to help fund biomedical research.

“The United States...really has built an incredible genomic engine and infrastructure that has resulted in a lot of technology that can really push forward molecular and biotechnology and medicine,” he said. “It would be a shame now to not capitalize that and maintain our national and international leadership in this area.”

Theodorescu, who is a professor of urology and pharmacology at the School of Medicine, is also the developer of the co-expression extrapolation (COXEN) bioinformatics principle of personalized therapy assignment in cancer. COXEN is currently being tested in a national clinical trial through Southwest Oncology Group, a cancer research cooperative, funded through the National Institutes of Health (www., NCT02177695). The principal investigator of that trial is Thomas Flaig, MD, associate director of clinical research at the CU Cancer Center.

“I think we’re in the middle of three revolutions: The “omics” revolution – genomics, proteomics, metabolomics,” he said. “We’re also in the big data revolution and a health care revolution.”

Theodorescu pointed out practical issues, such as the daunting 40-page patient-consent forms required for patients to participate in clinical trials, that could have the effect of discouraging research and hurting the patients that research is intended to help.

He urged lawmakers to harness the energy that is shaping the future of medicine and promote collaboration.

“In terms of public and private partnerships, I think we need to enhance the richness and the potential and the attractiveness of the data that the federal government provides to pharmaceutical partnerships by really providing a coalesced data set of all clinical trials that are federally supported,” he told the panel. “That will make mining that data set by companies…and would make cooperation with the federal government a lot more attractive.” 

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