29 Dec Precision Medicine: What is it?
Precision medicine is the way of the future. It’s a one-to-one medicine built around an individual’s personal needs. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) sums it up as “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.” Many diseases today are still thought to be impossible to prevent and untreatable, but precision medicine is changing this. By taking into account the biological, environmental, and behavioral characteristics of these difficult-to-treat diseases, we can be better armed to know how to treat millions of patients based on their particular needs.
This is why I work one-on-one with my patients and form a close relationship with each of them. I believe this intimate relationship is vital to their healing process. When I look at my patient as a complete individual, I am better able to serve her; I find alternate methods of healing that will work for her because her body tells me it will. So much of our health is based on epigenetics, and when my patients know they can trust we’re finding treatments based on their bodies and individual health needs, their stress relief is unparalleled.
Until today, medical treatments have been created for the “average” person, which is why treatments like chemotherapy work better for some patients than others. While developing treatments and preventions uniquely for each individual may take time, precision medicine is bringing us closer to figuring out “which approaches will be effective for which patients.”
Early this year, President Obama created The Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), which is targeted to “pioneer a new model of patient-powered research that promises to accelerate biomedical discoveries and provide clinicians with new tools, knowledge, and therapies to select which treatments will work best for which patients.” President Obama launched a $215 million investment for the PMI for the 2016 calendar year.
NIH’s PMI Cohort Program (made up of scientists and doctors) has an important role in President Obama’s Initiative. The Cohort Program is essentially a project dedicated to “extending precision medicine to all diseases by building a national research cohort of one million or more Americans.” The group will be gathering information from a broad and diverse U.S. population to extend the PMI to multiple diseases (including diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia). They’ll do this “by including participants from diverse social, racial/ethnic, and ancestral populations living in a variety of geographies, social environments, and economic circumstances, and from all age groups and health statuses.” This ensures that the discoveries for new treatments will be vast and touch on as many health problems as possible.
I hope to soon see the day when we replace penicillin (a treat-all medication) with a treatment that’s tailored to the health condition of the patient in need. The day is coming closer. Let’s enjoy the journey together.
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Mary Caire MD empowers the world to create a culture of optimized health guided by DNA and epigenetics.