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On Behalf of Cancer Patients

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For cancer patient Adriana Jenkins, the term "personalized medicine" isn't just a slogan — it's the kind of treatment that helped extend her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. Jenkins participated in a clinical trial of Herceptin, which was then the latest drug made to combat a specific mutation driving a specific type of cancer, she writes in Forbes. "Herceptin likely extended my life by at least nine years," Jenkins says. "It has had similar benefits for many thousands of patients around the world. It is an amazing example of how the health care industry can develop personalized cancer treatments."

Herceptin may never have made it to market if it had been tested on all breast cancer patients as it only works on the 25 percent of women who express high levels of HER2. Too many pharmaceutical companies "seem loath to focus on developing other PM drug," she writes, because they reduce potential profits. One way to change this dynamic is to create an incentive for pharma companies similar to that in the Orphan Drug Act, which states that companies that develop drugs for smaller markets — defined as fewer than 200,000 patients in the US — can sell it for seven years without competition, Jenkins suggests. Such a law could make personalized medicine drugs more of a priority for drug makers, and give cancer patients a chance at a longer life.

Jenkins died on February 9, 2011, after writing that article, reports Robert Langreth on the Forbes Treatments blog. She suffered a second recurrence of breast cancer that led to a large brain tumor in 2010 and later spread to her spinal fluid. She was 41 years old. She called her request for the development of more personalized medicine drugs her "dying wish."

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