The concept of personalized medicine pre-dates technological advances, but its pace has been accelerated entirely due to technology. The highly advanced applications in diagnostics and genomics have paved way for the formulation and delivery of customized medication for effective, powerful treatment.
Pharmacogenomics – the need of the hour
Hippocrates said “it is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has”, underlying the importance of the basic concept of stratified medicine. Rapid advances in pharmacogenomics have helped to determine the influence of genetic variation in patients’ drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination. Pharmacogenomics aims to improve drug response in patients by formulations that are tailor-made as per their genetic makeup, a practical and much needed step away from the ‘one capsule suits all’ treatment regimen available to patients, which had been for the larger part, a less than optimal approach.
Metabolism in patients – a classification
Patients are classified into Ultra-Rapid Metabolizer, Extensive Metabolizer, Intermediate Metabolizer and Poor Metabolizer – implying that the response to drugs will not be uniform across all four types. Similarly, the action of the drug and various other factors contribute to the success or lack of it in medication.
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· Melanoma: 73 percent
· Thyroid: 56 percent
· Colorectal: 51 percent
· Lung and pancreatic: 41 percent
· Breast: 32 percent
Personalized medicine – three fold strategy
Personalized medicines aim to treat patients through diagnosis, prevention and therapy in an individual or customized manner based on the person’s genes, proteins and environment. The genetically targeted therapies will ensure that treatment is effective with a higher success rate compared to the present dismal rates of success, wherein a practitioner or specialist prescribes what is called as first line treatment, and in the event of failure to secure a response to therapy, a different combination of more potent drugs, aptly named second line therapy is prescribed. Significant success has been achieved in personalized medicine, and the example of treating HER-2 positive metastatic cancer through the very first genetically guided therapy involving trastuzumab is a case in point.
Pharmaceuticals and innovations in medicines
Pharmaceuticals have understood and acknowledged the role of a patient’s DNA, RNA or protein and the need to classify heterogeneous patients under subsets to offer treatments with subtle modifications to suit the variations in genetic makeup. Research is increasingly aligned towards personalized medicine, drawing upon the vast data generated by the human genome project. The ambitious project is aiding pharmaceuticals’ research and development of new products in association with the strides in technology that have made mobile diagnosis and transmission of real time data possible. The combined efforts have paid rich dividends and products launched in future will have a higher percentage of personalized medicines that will be focused on areas where genetic mutations and infections are widespread.