Tuesday, September 27, 2005

FDA Chief Wants Transformation in Medicine

WASHINGTON - The incoming head of the Food and Drug Administration says the agency must stay on top of emerging discoveries into the mechanisms of disease that may lead to new treatments that can be tailored to individual patients.

Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, tapped by President Bush to at least temporarily head the regulatory agency, said Sunday that recent research will lead to a new kind of health care.

"We are discovering so much about diseases like cancer at the molecular level," von Eschenbach, a urologic surgeon by training, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Based on these understandings, physicians will be able to devise treatments more effectively matched to a specific patient and his or her condition, he said. That's a fundamental shift: Doctors now treat illnesses based primarily on how well other people have responded to a given treatment.

Von Eschenbach has a reputation for optimism. As head of the National Cancer Institute, he outlined an ambitious goal of eliminating suffering and death due to cancer and turning it into a manageable disease by 2015 — an aim regarded by some as unlikely.

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