Precision Medicine

So, exactly what its precision medicine?  This future vision is explored in an article written by Yella Hewings-Martin PhD, that was fact checked by Jasmin Collier.  Rather than using symptoms for the doctor to identify your disease, how about using your genes, metabolism and gut microbiome information to manage your individual health?  This is precise medicine and quite unique.

If they can identify factors that predispose someone to a specific disease and the molecular mechanisms that are causing that condition, then the treatment and prevention can be tailored to each and every individual.  This is upside down from traditional ways of diagnosing and treating a disease.  Many patients are becoming more involved in managing their own health, which fits in nicely with precision medicine.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) believes this is a revolutionary approach for prevention and treatment of disease and looks at individual differences in our lifestyle, environment and biology.  This seeks research to accelerate biomedical discovery and also to provide doctors with new tools, knowledge and therapies that can be selected and work best for individual patients.

DNA is currently used to identify genetic mutations that drive specific disease risk, especially in predicting cancers.  These therapies could target a specific pathway being exploited by a cancer and possibly shorten the life of the tumor.

Dr. Shumei Kato, assistant clinical professor at the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy and Division of Hematology and Oncology at the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center, has used in a study this approach in 40 patients that have rare tumors.  Many patients with rare tumors quite often do not have adequate access to approved drugs or clinical trials.  It is now feasible to perform genomic analysis and protein analysis among those with the rare tumors.

The team identified genetic mutations rather than clinical classifications in tumors.  They could match 37 of 40 participants to a therapy designed for a different cancer, or that was in the clinical trial stage.

At this time only a small portion of cancer patients can benefit from targeted therapies, but there are great efforts to extend this scope of precision oncology to a larger spectrum of patients.  This treatment needs to include the broader landscape of genetic and epigenetic changes taking place in a tumor.

Currently patients are typically treated when they are sick, and they would like to change it by collecting a wealth of information at the individual level to diagnose, treat and prevent disease.  They believe precision medicine will be routine in the near future and is already being used in certain cancer types.

Who pays for this is the biggest barrier currently.  They strongly believe that our system is not designed to keep people healthy by treating them only once they become sick.  To me alternative medicine, whereby you boost the immune system and use natural resources, fits in very well with precision medicine.

Dr Fredda Branyon