Cancer treatments

Expert Voices

How China is pulling ahead on AI and biotech

 Illustration of a plant with Chinese flag stars growing out of a petri dish
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China is poised to take the lead in innovations at the intersection of AI and biotech, with clinical applications of gene-editing and cell therapies, as well as blood-based cancer diagnostics.

Why it matters: China and Silicon Valley are competing for proprietary access to the genetic data of entire populations, which can be analyzed using machine learning to drastically advance genomic and medical research. Breakthroughs and overall leadership in these fields will have repercussions for the global economy.

Expert Voices

How precision medicine can help cancer patients

Scott Greaney receives an injection of chemotherapy during a treatment visit to the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta on Oct. 29, 2014.
A man receives a chemotherapy injection at the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta, Maine. Photo: Michael G. Seamans/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Last year, the FDA issued a landmark approval for the immune therapy drug pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for the treatment of adult and pediatric metastatic tumors whose cells have defects in their DNA repair machinery. This was the first-ever approval of a site-agnostic drug, which targets a tumor based on its genetic profile instead of its anatomic location.

The big picture: The carpet-bombing approach of chemotherapy is slowly giving way to targeted therapies, which use drugs to attack specific abnormal molecules in cancer cells. Because these rogue molecules result from genetic mutations, sequencing the genes of a patient's tumor can determine which targeted therapy to pursue — an example of the personalized approach to treatment known as precision medicine.

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