By Donald L. Trump

In a recent column in the Washington Post, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, referred to “breathtaking advances” in DNA analysis that are precipitating new approaches to treating diseases like cancer. “Unfortunately,” Collins wrote, “this mountain of data will be of limited use to cancer patients if researchers and clinicians lack the tools necessary to manipulate and mine it effectively.”

In Western New York, we’ve already made progress in developing just such tools and systems.

Genomics, the study of things that go wrong in a cell to cause diseases like cancer, has generated so much excitement because it enables us to deliver on the concept of personalized medicine – medical care tailored to a patient.

Just two years ago, we learned that Roswell Park Cancer Institute would receive $5.1 million from the Regional Economic Development Council to get its Center for Personalized Medicine off the ground. In that short interval, we have dedicated an additional $16 million in Roswell Park funds to develop, equip and staff the center, creating 30 jobs.

The critical stimulus from New York State led a key partner, Computer Task Group (CTG), to invest another $2.5 million to help us develop the robust informatics systems we’ll need to integrate vast quantities of genomic data into clinical care.

We’re on the cusp of big steps forward. We have developed a genetic test for diagnosing and analyzing lung cancers that’s more comprehensive than any other test on the market. And we’ve been working with CTG to develop a system to help hospitals and providers around the country offer genomic analysis to their patients – an integrated approach that will improve health care across the nation and create good new jobs here in Western New York.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s contributions to the burgeoning field of genomics represent a fantastic example of what can develop when public- and private-sector forces work collaboratively to plan and pursue goals. We’ve made tremendous advances in developing the tools to handle the mammoth tasks Collins referred to – manipulating and mining genomic data effectively.

It’s an expensive undertaking and additional investments from all quarters will be essential for us to reap the rewards of this early progress.

The Roswell Park genomics program must remain an economic development priority for the region and the state. This community can’t afford to see these early accomplishments be compromised by insufficient dedication of resources. Smart, strategic investments at this critical juncture will pay rewards to New Yorkers and to the field of oncology for years to come.

Donald L. Trump, M.D., is president and CEO of Roswell Park Cancer Institute.