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Precision Medicine: An emerging approach to conventional treatment

Posted on May 27, 2020 by Anuj

Precision-Medicine

As per WHO, “Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and is responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018. Globally, about 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer”.

The patients whose lives are afflicted with similar types of cancers have long been administered a similar type of treatment regimen because of lack of proper knowledge of the cause behind cancer and the genetic mutations that occur in the body. The understanding of the genetic makeup of humans over the past few decades has facilitated an avenue to more precision and personalized treatment approaches.

Precision medicine is not a new concept,  however, advancements in the medical sector and advent of technology have paved a way for the personalized and precision in the treatment approaches for the cancers. The concept of Precision medicine has been part of healthcare for a very long time, but the rapid progression observed in recent years is quite significant. The Human Genome Project and the introduction of next-generation sequencing have also played a big role in the advancement of precision medicine. The amount of data and insight has assisted the research and scientist to move rapidly in the Precision Medicine field. The clinical data provided by today’s electronic medical records and the analysis of the same by computational tools have helped in finding the unexpected correlations between various factors affecting the individual differently.

Precision medicine can be helpful in providing treatment to a wide variety of diseases such as melanomas, leukaemias, lung and breast cancer. Precision medicine helps in treating cancer based on the makeup of genes that causes cancer instead of the type of cancer. Upon identification of the gene type that causes cancer growth, specific drugs or treatment are used to target those genes which will turn the gene off and stop the growth of cancer. Apart from the cancerous diseases, precision medicine can also play an important role in prediction and prevention of certain diseases such as Diabetes, Asthma, and Heart disease which are related to the family history of the individuals.

Precision medicine is the next big thing in the healthcare industry. Precision medicine is an emerging approach in medical care meant for providing treatment and prevention care according to genes, environment, and lifestyle of the affected individual. Apart from genetic and biochemical information the Precision Medicine also takes accounts of other factors such as age, gender, pre-existing conditions, health history, diet and preferences of the concerned person.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, precision medicine focuses on individual medication & treatment. Since the decisions, treatment, practices and products are being precise to the individual patient it reduces the chance of side effects and also ensures increased effectiveness in patients. The ultimate aim of precision medicine is to provide targeted treatment to the affected Individual. Since each person responds to treatment differently, the precision medicine will help in deciding & adopting the specific treatment that will work for the affected person.

Promising outcomes of Precision Medicine in treating several debilitating and chronic disorders have garnered much attention from several government organizations and pharma companies. Various government agencies and research institutions are working in the field of precision medicine. In 2015 the US government under President Barack Obama rolled out $215 million for the “Precision Medicine Initiative” programme. The aim of the programme was to expand cancer genomics projects for the prevention & treatment of cancer and to build a comprehensive scientific knowledge base for the understanding of health and disease.

The UK government has launched the “100,000 Genome Project” to map the genomes of NHS patients. The project is meant to ‘help deliver better tests, better drugs and above all better care for patients’. The project will help the patients affected with cancer and certain rare genetic diseases.

Besides the USA, and the UK, in 2015 the Japan Medical and Research Development Agency (AMED) launched the “Initiative on Rare and Undiagnosed Disease” (IRUD) project. The aims of the project are “to support the diagnosis of patients with undiagnosed disease via data sharing and promote research into pathology that may lead to the development of new treatments and therapies”.

Similarly, countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Australia, France, UAE, and others have also initiated parallel projects on genomic studies in their respective countries to get more insights about genetic sequencing. 

Precision Medicine provides a lot of benefits to both healthcare providers and patients. To the healthcare professional, it helps in getting a better understanding of the underlying disease mechanisms, accurate disease detection, and selection of precise treatment options for the disease. Along with the integration of electronic health records, it will help in analysing, sharing and building of data among doctors and researchers. Similarly to the patients, it will help them with an effective and alternate treatment option with fewer side effects.

However, privacy issues, cost-effectiveness, and time consumption to understand the genetic information are some of the issues associated with Precision Medicine right now.  But with the advancement of technology and research, these issues are likely to lessen with time. Similarly, with larger-scale adoption by the medical professional, the healthcare insurers are also likely to include the treatments and genetic testing cost in their health care coverage in the coming years.

Overall, Precision medicine has a promising future, its application is expected to entirely transform the healthcare industry as a whole. In the coming years, the implementation of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology in the Precision Medicine field is expected to be a game-changer in the management of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

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