Often when talking with patients and families about a health condition, the question “why me?” arises. “Why, doctor, did I get diabetes, asthma or arthritis?” Often the answer to this query is unknown, but largely it is a combination of nature vs. nurture. In today’s medical era, the answers to these questions are becoming clearer and more personal.
Many believe that genome-based medicine, frequently called personalized medicine, is the future of healthcare—the next logical step in a world where more is known about human genetics, disease, and wellness than ever before. Personalized medicine, though not practiced routinely, is an advancing field of medicine that is informed by each person’s unique clinical, genetic, genomic, and environmental information1. Because these factors are different for every person, the nature of diseases—including their onset, their course, and how they might respond to drugs or other interventions—is as individual as the people who have them.
Personalized medicine is about making the treatment as individualized as the disease. It involves identifying genetic, genomic, and clinical information that allows accurate predictions to be made about a person’s susceptibility of developing disease, the course of disease, and its response to treatment.
Of all the scientific and social promises that stem from advances in our understanding of the human genome, genomic medicine may be the most eagerly awaited. The prospect of examining a person’s entire genome, or at least a large portion of it, in order to make individualized risk predictions and treatment decisions, is finally coming within reach.
A number of top-tier medical institutions now have personalized medicine programs, and many are actively conducting both basic research and clinical studies in genomic medicine.
Specific advantages that personalized medicine may offer patients and clinicians include:
- Ability to make more informed medical decisions
- Higher probability of desired outcomes thanks to better-targeted therapies
- Reduced probability of negative side effects
- Focus on prevention and prediction of disease rather than reaction to it
- Earlier disease intervention than has been possible in the past
- Reduced healthcare costs
Continued research in this area could potentially lend to a transformative tool in the hands of doctors at the point of care. Extending innovation and connecting researchers is one of the first steps to bringing genomic science directly to the forefront of clinical medicine.
The Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Advanced Health (CSS Institute) has been working to create a “medical information superhighway” to facilitate this type of connection. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is enhancing the nation’s advanced research communication network called the National LambdaRail (NLR), which provides universities and government agencies with massive data transmission services as a means to access leading-edge research. What this means is that organizations (such as cancer centers, medical schools, research institutions, hospitals, clinics, payers and laboratories and imaging centers to name only a few) that are connected via this “superhighway” would better be able to collaborate and transmit knowledge and research findings.