precision medicine (PM)

Contributor(s): Shaun Sutner

Precision medicine (PM) is a relatively recent and rapidly evolving development in healthcare in which physicians and other caregivers consider individual differences in genes, socioeconomic status and lifestyles when devising personalized treatment regimens for patients. The field is also sometimes referred to as personalized, or individualized, medicine.

Precision medicine got a big boost in research and awareness with President Barack Obama's unveiling of the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) in his State of the Union address Jan. 20, 2015. Also bringing attention to precision medicine is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with its Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program. With $130 million in funding from the PMI, NIH is building a national research cohort of at least 1 million Americans from a broad range of backgrounds by recording volunteers' health metrics and collecting blood samples and following their health over time. The National Cancer Institute is pursuing a cancer genomics project associated with precision medicine with $70 million from the PMI.

Precision medicine emerged over the last decade in concert with advances in genetic research and genomics, especially DNA sequencing -- exemplified by the Human Genome Project. It has also progressed rapidly with the growth of data analytics and cognitive computing in the health information technology sector. While often associated with cancer treatment, precision medicine's most common current use is probably for diabetes. It is also being used in cardiology and neurology, and with conditions related to aging and patients with rare illnesses.

Precision medicine has already led to the creation of several drugs, including Gleevec, Herceptin and Tarceva, which provide new cancer treatments based on the unique genetic profile of individual patients.

This was last updated in May 2016

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