Genetics may be the next big thing in medicine, but at what cost?

Many believe genetics are the next big thing in medicine, but one question for this new era of personalized medicine is cost.

This Sunday is the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project. Many believe genetics are the next big thing in medicine, but one question for this new era of personalized medicine is cost. In theory, DNA sequencing can make it a lot easier -- and cheaper -- to fight cancer. 

"When you sequence all the genes in the genome, you have the opportunity to not just identify the genes driving the cancer, but genes that affect how this man is going to handle the drugs that you are going to give him," says Dr. Les Biesecker.

If that works, the guy avoids the cost and the physical toll it takes to basically experiment with other drugs. But -- and this is big -- the technology is so new, there is concern health providers will jump on test results that lead nowhere.

"You could go down the absolutely wrong avenue. You may start to do additional testing. Additional testing of family members. That's when costs could get out of control," says Dr. Leonard Sender, director of the Genomic Center at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

He says it's up to doctors to exercise restraint as they begin playing with this powerful, but risky, new tool.

About the author

Dan Gorenstein is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Health Desk. You can follow him on Twitter @dmgorenstein.

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