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Are we ready for medical treatment based on a patient's racial and ethnic background?

Washington, DC -- In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration licensed the first medicine approved to treat patients of a particular race or ethnicity. The drug's name is BiDil, and it is used along with other heart medicines to treat heart failure in black patients. While BiDil opened the door to so-called race-based therapeutics, newer technologies and a clearer understanding of the underpinnings of many diseases could usher in an era of treatment based on a patient's racial and ethnic background. Still, the practice of studying, developing and prescribing therapies based on race and ethnicity is not without controversy as well as ethical concerns that could impact health care worldwide.

To explore the rationale, value and concerns of treatments based on race and ethnicity, Georgetown University is hosting a national conference to explore the state of race-based therapeutics on October 6th through the 8th, 2010. Sponsored by Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC), Georgetown University Law Center and the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, the conference entitled "Navigating the Road to Personalized Medicine: Scientific, Ethical and Public Policy Issues Surrounding the Development of Race-Based Therapeutics" will be held the New Research Building on the GUMC campus in Washington, DC.

"After decades of consideration, the recognition that diagnosis and treatment of many diseases needed to be gender-specific has lead to improved health care for women," says Kathryn Sandberg, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the Georgetown University Center for the Study of Sex Differences in Health, Aging and Disease. "Now, in the 21st century, a new crossroads exists and it is essential to determine if there is evidence that better health would be achieved for all if race, ethnicity and gender were considered in screening, diagnosis and treatment for many diseases that puts the conference in context"

Sandberg is the conference organizer along with Anne Sumner, MD, a clinical investigator at National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and professor of medicine at GUMC.

In addition to lectures and panel discussions about issues related to race-based therapeutics, conference speakers and participants will develop recommendations to enhance the development of future research and guide public policy. These recommendations will be presented made at the conclusion of the three-day conference.

This timely and provocative conference is open, at no charge, to students, scientists and fellows from the fields of medicine, ethics, philosophy and law as well as members of the public. Attendees are encouraged to pre-register here:

Members of the press should register by notifying Karen Mallet at

Speakers and topics include:

"Health Disparities in Biomedical Research"
John Ruffin, PhD
Director, National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities
National Institutes of Health

"Ethical Issues Surrounding Race-Based Therapeutics"
Vanessa Northington Gamble, MD, PhD
Professor, Medical Humanities and History
George Mason University

"The Genetics of Race and Disease: How Important is Race?"
Charles N. Rotimi, PhD
Director, Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health
NIH Intramural Center for Genomics and Health Disparities

"The Contributions of Systems Medicine to the Study of Race and Ethnicity"
Howard Federoff, MD, PhD
Executive Vice President for Health Sciences
Georgetown University Medical Center
Executive Dean
Georgetown University School of Medicine

"Heart Disease in Black and White: Risk and Race"
Anne E. Sumner, MD
Clinical Investigator, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Adjunct Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism
Georgetown University Medical Center

"Race-based Therapeutics: The Story Begins with BiDil"
Robert Temple, MD
Acting Director, Office of Drug Evaluation and Research
Deputy Director, Clinical Science
Food and Drug Administration

"Race-based Therapeutics and the Law"
M. Gregg Bloche, JD, MD,
Co-director, Georgetown-Johns Hopkins Joint Program in Law and Public Health
Georgetown University Law Center

"Revealing Racial Differences in Cardiac Risk and Cardiac Care"
Kim A. Williams, MD
Professor of Medicine; Director, Nuclear Cardiology
The University of Chicago Medical Center

"Genetic Epidemiology of Complex Diseases in Ethnic Populations"
Ellen Velie, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor, Epigenetics
Michigan State University

"What Has the LUMIINA and PROFILE Studies Taught Us About Race and Autoimmune Disease?"
Graciela S. Alarcn, MD, MPH
Jane Knight Lowe Chair of Medicine in Rheumatology
The University of Alabama at Birmingham

"Race and Animal Models: Benefits and Challenges"
Kathryn Sandberg, PhD
Conference Organizer
Director, Georgetown University Center for the Study of Sex Differences in Health, Aging and Disease
Georgetown University

"Race-based Therapeutics from a Drug Discovery Angle"
Milton Brown, MD, PhD
Edwin H. Richard and Elisabeth Richard von Matsch Endowed Chair in Experimental Therapeutics
Director, Drug Discovery Program
Georgetown University Medical Center

For the entire conference agenda, please visit the registration website:


Contact: Karen Mallet
Georgetown University Medical Center

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