What is Personalized Medicine?

Personalized medicine is the ability to determine an individual's unique molecular characteristics and to use those genetic distinctions to diagnose more finely an individual's disease, select treatments that increase the chances of a successful outcome and reduce possible adverse reactions. Personalized medicine also is the ability to predict an individual's susceptibility to diseases and thus to try to shape steps that may help avoid or reduce the extent to which an individual will experience a disease.

For personalized medicine to be a fully functioning reality at the clinical level, certain features are essential: an electronic medical record, personalized genomic data available for clinical use, physician access to electronic decision support tools, a personalized health plan, personalized treatments, and personal clinical information available for research use. Partners HealthCare has made a firm commitment to the principles of personalized medicine and to the importance of genetics and genomics in delivering the best care of patients. To that end PHS also has committed to ensuring that the features above are or will be available.

 

Why Personalized Medicine?

In the past several years there has been a revolution in human genetics that is having a very significant impact on virtually all specialties of medicine. Several scientific advances are responsible for this revolution. One of them is the recognition and validation that the genetic composition of individual humans has a significant role to play in an individual's health and predisposition to common diseases such as heart disease and cancer. A second scientific advance is the availability of the human genome sequence and the many high throughput technologies developed and advanced during and since the Human Genome Project. A third is the imminent ability to completely sequence the human genome in real time at very low cost.

This new genomic era provides excellent opportunities to identify gene polymorphisms, genetic changes that are responsible for human disease, and to build an understanding of how such changes cause disease. In the clinical arena, it is now possible to utilize the emerging genetic and genomic knowledge to diagnose and treat patients. It is anticipated that such knowledge will revolutionize medical practice result in an advance in personalized medicine. The knowledge of the genetic basis of human disease is ushering a new era in drug development that is focused on targeted drug development. Genetic profiling of Partners HealthCare patients will help in defining individuals risk for clinical outcomes and their response to specific drugs.