Personalized medicine (also referred to as precision or individualized medicine) is a form of medicine that employs an individual’s genetic profile, protein makeup, and environmental factors to prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. The term has gained usage in recent years because of the growth of new diagnostics and informatics that expand our understanding of the molecular basis and the genomics of disease.
Diagnostic testing is a key component in personalized medicine and is often used to select and optimize therapies based on the context of a patient’s genetic content and molecular or cellular make up. Personalized medicine relies on technology that analyzes a patient’s biology, DNA, RNA or proteins to confirm a disease. Based on the dynamics of a patient’s biology, personalized medicine technology uses tools to evaluate health risks and design personalized health plans to minimize or mitigate risks, prevent disease, and treat the disease with better precision.
A major form of personalized medicine is pharmacogenomics, which uses an individual’s genome to provide information that can be used to tailor drug prescriptions. Pharmacogenomics considers the genetic information from an individual to help prevent adverse drug events and allow for more appropriate drug dosages and more efficacy with drug treatment plans. One of the major uses of pharmacogenomics involves the identification of a patient’s genetic variants that may predict adverse events to a specific drug.
The process of determining the efficacy and safety of a drug specific to a targeted patient group or sub-group is called companion diagnostics. This diagnostic technique is often used when a drug is being developed or after the drug is made available to the market for the purpose of enhancing therapeutic treatment available, based on the individual. Companion diagnostics incorporate the pharmacogenomic information related to the drug into their prescription label to assist in making the most optimal treatment decision possible for the patient. Based upon a patient’s genomic makeup, the physician may make better decisions on treatment drugs in turn allowing for a more cost-effective and accurate approach.
There has been an increased awareness that there may be genetic diversity within a single tumor. Therefore, there is the possibility that drugs that may produce good therapeutic results in the general population may not be as successful for certain patients with a particular genetic profile. This has given rise to the field of cancer genomics or oncogenomics, which is the application of genomics and personalized medicine to cancer research and treatment. Because of its implications in drug therapy, cancer genomics is one of the most promising areas of the field of genomics. Cancer genomics has advanced because of the development of high-throughput nucleic acid sequencing methods which can characterize genes associated with cancer to better understand disease pathology and improve the development of effective drugs.