BOSTON (CBS) – The future of healthcare is to customize therapies based on a patient’s individual background. That requires a large amount of data on people from all walks of life.
As Dr. Mallika Marshall reports, local researchers are recruiting thousands of New Englanders to participate in one of the largest biobanks of its kind.
If you had high blood pressure, wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly what medications would be best for you?
It’s called precision medicine which involves tailoring specific tests, treatments and prevention to individual patients based on their particular genetics, habits, lifestyle, and environment.
To do that, scientists need to study a huge pool of people, so the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has just launched the “All of Us Research Program” with the goal to recruit one million volunteers from across the country, including those who have traditionally been left out of biomedical research.
“That can mean patients with disability,” says Dr. Dean Xerras, Medical Director for MGH Chelsea Health Center and a co-investigator in the All of Us program. “It can mean patients of the LGBT community. It can mean Latinos, African Americans,” Dr. Xerras adds.
Like Michelle Anderson of Roxbury who was initially hesitant to enroll given the misuse of African-Americans in biomedical research in the past.
“Where we were deceived,” explains Michelle. “Where research brought on illness so there’s automatically a reflex of I don’t want to be a part of that.”
But after learning more about the program, Michelle, a registered nurse at MGH who was recently diagnosed with kidney disease, changed her mind.
“In my participating they get to evaluate, study and learn the difference from me and the next person and that will help to curtail and formulate better care and I’m all for better care for everyone, inclusive for my community,” says Michelle.
“We’re asking participants and volunteers to give us, to share their health information, their electronic medical record, to share information about where they live, what types of foods they eat, their diet, to share information about their activity and also bits of information at this point in time we can’t even imagine,” explains Dr. Cheryl Clark, a hospitalist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a co-investigator for All of Us.
Researchers assure participants that their data will be stored securely.
About 70 sites around the country will take part. Here in new England, Boston Medical Center and Partners Healthcare are recruiting participants.
“We want to give every patient the opportunity to get the same care regardless of their ability to pay, regardless of their race, their SES background,” explains Dr. Xerras.
It will also give participants, like Michelle, a chance to improve care, not just for herself but for future generations.
“I appreciate the fact that I will be a part of history,” says Michelle.
All of Us has started enrolling patients at MGH Chelsea but you don’t have to be a patient here or anywhere else to participate. If you’d like more information go to www.joinallofus.org