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To Be Precise

Medical institutions across the US are investing in large centers, new technology, and more experts to bring precision medicine — the new personalized medicine — to the clinic, especially to cancer patients, the New York Times reports. While the expectation is that, eventually, every patient will undergo genomic sequencing, "even optimists warn that medicine is a long way from deriving useful information from routine sequencing," the Times says. And it is an expensive endeavor that is rarely covered by insurance.

The institutes, it adds, are busy collecting data, noting that Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center sequenced 16,000 tumors in 2012 and Mount Sinai has collected information from 24,000 patients that it is storing in an electronic "biobank" and analyzing with its Minerva supercomputer.

Other centers are watching this unfold. James Crawford from Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine says his institute is weighing joining the game or waiting for data. "What is the ultimate utility of this personalized medicine?" he tells the Times. "As a medical profession but also as a society we have not answered this question to our satisfaction."