Personalized Medicine

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According to the 2008 “Priorities for Personalized Medicine” report, personalized medicine refers to the tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics of each patient. It does not literally mean the creation of drugs or medical devices that are unique to a patient but rather the ability to classify individuals into sub-populations that differ in their susceptibility to a particular disease or their response to a specific treatment. Preventative and therapeutic interventions can then be concentrated on those who will benefit, sparing expense and side effects for those who will not.

The principle of adjusting treatment to specific patient characteristics has, of course, always been the goal of physicians. However, recent rapid advances in genomics and molecular biology are beginning to reveal a large number of possible new, genome-related, molecular markers for the presence of disease, susceptibility to disease, or differential response to treatment. Such markers can serve as the basis of new genomics-based diagnostic tests for identifying and/or confirming disease, assessing an individual’s risk of disease, identifying patients who will benefit from particular interventions, or tailoring dosing regimens to individual variations in metabolic response. These new diagnostics can also pave the way for development of new therapeutics specifically targeted at the physiological consequences of the genetic defect(s) associated with a patient’s disease.