Personalised medicine, also known as precision medicine or tailored medicine, is a healthcare approach that takes into account individual differences in genes, environment, and lifestyle to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases [1]. This approach aims to provide the right treatment to the right patient at the right time, thereby improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare costs [2].

One of the key drivers of personalised medicine is the rapid advancement in genomics and other technologies that enable the characterization of an individual’s genetic makeup and other biological factors [3]. By analysing an individual’s genomic data, healthcare providers can predict the likelihood of developing certain diseases and tailor treatment options accordingly. This is particularly important for conditions that have a strong genetic component, such as cancer, heart disease, and mental health disorders [4]. For example, genetic testing can help identify patients with a high risk of developing breast cancer, allowing for early prevention and detection strategies. Similarly, genetic testing can help identify patients who are more likely to respond to certain medications, enabling individual-focused treatment plans [4].

In addition to its role in predicting disease risk and guiding treatment decisions, genomics is also being used to identify new therapeutic targets and to develop tailor-made therapies. Researchers are using genomic data to identify specific genetic mutations that may be driving the development of cancer, and are using this information to develop targeted therapies that are more likely to be effective for patients with these mutations. As mentioned in a previous article on biomarker visualisation, companies such as InsideTracker are already becoming more popular for blood and genetic testing [5], potentially better informing biotechnological companies such as Sana Biotechnology in delivering personalised therapies [6].

Data integration could eventually enable healthcare providers to create a comprehensive picture of an individual’s health, necessitating combination of technologies available from different companies. In addition to traditional sources of data such as electronic health records and patient-reported outcomes, newer technologies such as wearable devices and continuous monitoring systems are also providing a wealth of data that can inform treatment decisions [7][8].

Images 1 and 2. Levels Health (left) and Apple Watch (right) are two outstanding examples of commercial wearable trackers of health-determining factors. Retrieved from [7][8].

Despite the potential benefits of personalised medicine, there are also challenges that need to be addressed. One of the main challenges is the cost of genomic testing and other technologies, which may not be affordable or accessible to all patients. In addition, there is a need for regulatory frameworks and standards to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data used in personalised medicine. There are also concerns about the ethical implications of personalised medicine, such as the potential for discrimination based on genetic information.

One of the main challenges is the cost of genomic testing and other technologies, which may not be affordable or accessible to all patients. This can create significant barriers to care, particularly for individuals who do not have access to comprehensive insurance coverage. Nevertheless, there are innovative companies such as Helix that offer a range of genomic tests to help individuals learn more about their health and ancestry [9]. The company utilises a unique business model, called the Helix Marketplace, which allows customers to purchase individual tests or packages of tests from a range of different providers. This approach aims to make genomic testing more flexible and affordable, as customers can choose the tests that are most relevant to their needs.

Image 3. In addition to offering a range of genomic tests, Helix also partners with other companies to develop new tests and applications for genomic data. Retrieved from [9].

In addition, there is a need for regulatory frameworks and standards to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data used in personalised medicine. Without these safeguards in place, there is a risk that patients may receive inaccurate or inappropriate treatment recommendations based on faulty data.

Another challenge is the ethical implications of using genetic and other sensitive information to inform healthcare decisions [3]. There is a risk that genetic information could be used to discriminate against certain individuals, either by denying them access to certain treatments or by charging them higher premiums for insurance coverage [1]. In order to address these concerns, it will be important to establish clear guidelines for the use of genetic and other sensitive information in healthcare [3] and to ensure that patients are fully informed about the potential risks and benefits of personalised medicine [1].

Data security and privacy also deserve increased attention for guaranteeing ethically reliable precision medicine. As more data is collected and shared through electronic health records and other sources, there is an increased risk of data breaches and unauthorised access to sensitive information. In order to protect patient privacy and ensure the integrity of the data being used in personalised medicine, it will be important to implement robust security measures and to establish clear guidelines for the use and sharing of data.

Conclusively, personalised medicine has the potential to revolutionise healthcare by providing individualised treatment plans that take into account an individual’s unique characteristics. While there are challenges to be addressed, the advancements in genomics and other technologies, as well as the integration of data from multiple sources, offer exciting opportunities for improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.

 


© COPYRIGHT: This article is the property of We Speak Science, a non-profit organization, cofounded by Dr. Detina Zalli and Dr. Argita Zalli. The article is written by Natanael Strugaj.

References:

  1. Hoon, D. S., & Jaffray, D. A. (2019). Personalized medicine: current state and future directions. Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences, 50(1), 45-49.
  2. National Human Genome Research Institute. (2019). Precision medicine. Retrieved from https://www.genome.gov/27565109/precision-medicine-initiative/.
  3. Su, Y. A., & Chen, Y. H. (2016). Personalized medicine: from concept to reality. Personalized Medicine, 13(6), 527-534.
  4. Mukherjee, S. (2018). The Gene: An Intimate History. Simon & Schuster.
  5. Strugaj, N. (2022). Biomarker Visualisation: The Present & Future of Disease Preventing Diagnostics. Retrieved from https://wespeakscience.com/biomarker-visualisation-the-present-future-of-disease-preventing-diagnostics/
  6. Sana Biotechnology. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sanabiotechnology.com/.
  7. AppleWatch. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apple.com/apple-watch/.
  8. LevelsHealth. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.levelshealth.com/.
  9. Helix. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.helix.com/