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hEalth · FOCUS FINLAND 2011 Cancer blood tests within reach innovation in full swing Professor Jonathan Knowles is a proponent of personalised medicine. HIV used to be a death sentence, but Knowles says the pace with which now in many countries HIV patients practical clinical applications are now have roughly the same life span as being created from scientific discoveries healthy people. is incredible. "This is due to very highly focused "There is a whole new set of medical and accurate molecular diagnostics. It products to be created on the back allows the creation of a specific cocktail, of this technological revolution in a combination of antiviral therapies, for medicine. Finland has an extraordinary that particular patient," says Knowles. opportunity to participate and lead this What is coming closer, though, is the development," he suggests. opportunity to do the same thing for Development of new therapies cancer. requires partnerships with pharmaceuti"There won't be a magic cal companies. With bullet therapy, but it today's molecular In THE FUTURE, is already possible to diagnostic technoloidentify some cancers gies, it is possible to A SIMPlE BlooD from one millilitre of identify the patients TEST CAn blood. The diagnostics who will benefit from DIAgnoSE will increasingly be based clinical trials. CAnCER. on blood samples, so you "The level of Finnish may not even need sammedical science is ples of the tumour. By utilising detailed high. In addition, Finland has a number molecular diagnostics you can design of other major advantages that make the right therapy ­ which will be a novel it suitable for the creation of a centre combination of anti-cancer drugs ­ and of excellence where new therapies can measure its efficacy." be developed in collaboration with "In the future," Knowles continues, international partners. We have coher"when you go for your annual medical ent long-term patient records, which is check-up, a simple blood test can give remarkable and very rare globally. We you an early diagnosis of, say, lung also have a very educated population cancer. That will allow an operation that with patients who are willing to particiremoves the tumour, perhaps followed pate in medical research." by a short precise drug treatment, so you Knowles adds, "And because Finland is can actually cure the cancer." a small country, we have a pragmatism Knowles gives another example of the and an ability to get the right people applications of precision blood tests. around the same table. This makes deci"They can advise people who have sion making easier." cardiovascular problems that they in particular are in serious danger. This will allow them to manage their tion better." { } Flourishing genetic research T he distinct genetic characteristics of the Finnish population have been studied by the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) and its collaborators as part of the Finnish Gene Atlas project. This exceptionally extensive undertaking involves collection and analysis of genome-wide gene marker data for more than 40,000 Finns. The passion and dedication of pioneering Finnish genetic researchers such as the late academician leena PeltonenPalotie have considerably contributed to the significant advances made in genetic research during the last ten years. 8

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