Personalizing Precision Medicine

June 1, 2015
Personalizing Precision Medicine
Personalized medicine—arguably a more encompassing set of practices than precision medicine—is poised to benefit individual patients, particularly in the context of shared decision making. [Alexander Raths/Fotolia]

Wendy Whittington, M.D.

There is much enthusiasm these days around precision medicine, and it’s very exciting to see effective individualized care delivered to patients based on their genomic information. I can’t understate the importance of giving the best care possible and avoiding potentially toxic treatments for patients by knowing that a particular medication may or may not be effective for that individual. This science is growing rapidly and many patients stand to benefit from it.

Think of the exponential benefits we might see if we were to layer a personalized element onto this young but already successful field. If my patient’s genomic make up is such that drug X is the scientifically obvious choice to shrink her tumor, but drug X needs to be taken in a precise fashion that will never work with my patient’s lifestyle and diet, then I have more work to do. 

Wouldn’t it be powerful if we could layer lifestyle and other factors on top of our scientific knowledge to really get it right? That’s the idea behind shared decision making, in which patients and their doctors together weigh the pros and cons of treatments and craft plans of care that meet the individual needs of each patient. As we amass medical data, our understanding grows of how patients’ outcomes are affected by various treatments. Combining this knowledge with genomic data and individual patient preferences holds great promise for better outcomes.

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