President Obama will seek funding for a new precision medicine initiative to develop medical treatments tailored to genetic and other characteristics of individual patients. The President addressed the initiative during his State of the Union address Jan. 20 and is expected to release more details in the coming weeks.
According to media reports, the money would support biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health and the regulation of diagnostic tests by the Food and Drug Administration.
A WhiteHouse.gov blogger, Jo Handelsman, describes precision medicine as an emerging approach to promoting health and treating disease that takes into account individual differences in peoples genes, environments and lifestyles, making it possible to design highly effective, targeted treatments for cancer and other diseases.
The process includes using DNA testing as part of the care plan for patients with cancer, which can enable physicians to select more individualized treatments and increase the chances of survival. In short, precision medicine gives clinicians new tools, knowledge and therapies to select which treatments will work best for which patients, Handelsman wrote.
According to the blog, besides utilizing genomics, precision medicine can also utilize advances in other fields such as medical imaging and health information technology to development of new treatments.
In a CDC.gov Genomics and Health Impact Blog, Muin J. Khoury, director, Office of Public Health Genomics, agreed that HIT is equally as important as genomics in a precision medicine program, as HIT can integrate medical history into patient-centered approaches. Khoury also wrote that a population-based perspective is required for the success of precision medicine. To be informative, data on an individual need to be compared with data from large numbers of people to recognize important individual characteristics and to identify relevant population subgroups that are likely to respond differently to drugs and other interventions, he wrote.
Khoury also stressed data need to be representative of the population and should consider factors such as race/ethnicity, age, and sex to avoid selection bias and unreliable disease prediction models.
He wrote a strong case can be made for using precision medicine to target early detection and disease prevention strategies. Although personalized treatments can help save the lives of people who are already sick, disease prevention applies to all of us, he wrote. For example, recent data suggest that knowing the speed with which some people metabolize nicotine, based on genetic and other factors, could lead to personalized smoking cessation interventions to complement the highly successful public health efforts that have resulted in reduction in smoking over the past few decades.
In his blog, Khoury also addressed the importance of educating the public, physicians and payers about precision medicine and ensuring that benefits from precision medicine are widespread. Society has a stake in assuring that the national investment in precision medicine research leads to tangible health benefits for all and does not worsen existing health disparities, he wrote. This is where strong public health-healthcare partnerships are key in assessing the needs of individuals and communities, developing appropriate policies and guidelines, ensuring that all people have access to the intended benefits of technology, and tracking effectiveness and cost effectiveness outcomes in the real world.
Read the CDC blog at http://blogs.cdc.gov/genomics/2015/01/29/precision-medicine.
Read the White House blog at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/01/21/precision-medicine-improving-health-and-treating-disease.