The age of ‘one drug suits all’ may soon be a thing of the past. Currently, when people are suffering from a specific illness, they are all given the same treatment. However, response to a specific treatment can vary greatly between individuals.
It may seem like a futuristic idea, however research is being carried out in this field to develop tailor made treatments to suit patients on an individual level.
Humans share around 99.9% of their DNA with one another and it is the remaining 0.1% that makes each individual unique. These genetic distinctions differentiate our susceptibility to certain diseases (including cancer and heart disease, for example) and by extension, certain treatments.
With personalised medicine at our disposal, there are several proposed advantages, including the following:
– A reduced likelihood of adverse side effects to a treatment
– Generally improved healthcare with faster access to treatments
– Cost effectiveness for funding bodies over time, including the NHS, due to avoidance of prolonged illness. This is despite the initial high costs.
A key factor that has allowed us to appreciate this field is the recognition of the slight difference in DNA between humans (around 6 million nucleotides), which can account for individuals having a predisposition to certain diseases. These variations determine the body’s ability to absorb, metabolise and utilise drugs in general. In parallel with this is the phenomenon that was the Human Genome Project, which allows us to
completely sequence an individual’s genome. Both of these discoveries have paved the way to technological advances which at one stage were unimaginable.
With this access to an individual’s genetic profile, we will be able to identify susceptibility to disease and determine their response to therapy (an area coined pharmacogenomics). Treatments can be carried out appropriately, improving outcomes for the patient.
There is already a massive interest in this field, with millions of pounds invested each year in the UK by various funding bodies and this is only set to increase as we come closer to a definitive outcome. However, it is difficult to predict when the treatments suggested here will become available to the global population. Despite this, it is certain that personalised medicine stands as a pinnacle age for science, and will transform healthcare through ages to come.