Hype surrounds precision medicine, but significant challenges remain

Billions of dollars and an immeasurable level of excitement surround precision medicine, but several researchers say the real-world challenges tied to these initiatives should temper expectations.

The promise of precision medicine has been widely embraced by the medical community, particularly after President Barack Obama unveiled the Precision Medicine Initiative in 2015, and then doubled down with the Cancer Moonshot initiative. The recently enacted 21st Century Cures Act includes significant funding for both programs, although some say the Cancer Moonshot program may be at risk under President Trump.

RELATED: Inova Health System bets big on precision medicine

But three Harvard researchers aren’t convinced precision medicine efforts will have the immediate impact that many might expect. The trio highlighted several challenges and limitations facing precision medicine in a Health Affairs post, including the slow process of transforming clinical care and the effort required to implement ongoing research into the clinical setting. They added that the intense focus on technology could detract from socioeconomic and geographic factors that may be just as important.

RELATED: Payers wary of covering 'experimental' genetic tests for cancer

Still, the medical community has far more tools at its disposal than it did more than 40 years ago when President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer. Federal funding will play a significant role in precision medicine efforts going forward, but the availability of genetic testing and analytics offers significant promise.