Not science fiction, doctors can now use individualized medicine

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Doctors looking for new alternatives for their patients suffering from heart disease, depression and cancer may have something new to offer. Individualized medicine, which is often referred to as precision or personalized medicine, can help doctors treat patients right now.

One way physicians can bring precision medicine into their patients lives today is through pharmacogenomics, which essentially tests patients’ genes to see if a given drug will result in harmful side effects or if patients will respond to the drug in some other unexpected way, according to a recent announcement by the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine. According to The RIGHT study, which was conducted by the Mayo Clinic, 99 percent of patients were host to a generic variant that changed the way their body processes common medications.

Another way physicians can use precision medicine is by sequencing a patient’s DNA, which gives them a glimpse of their genetic blueprint. Armed with this information, the patient has a vastly better understanding of the ways their genes change, in addition to their risk of disease and the applications of targeted therapies. The good news for patients is the cost of sequencing their DNA continues to fall, according to the announcement.

“Ultimately, we see value in having everyone's genome sequenced, which will have the net effect of identifying undiagnosed disease, offering choice in preventing hereditary conditions and improving diagnosis accuracy and drug choice--all of which will result in better patient care and lower healthcare costs,” says Keith Stewart, director of the center, in the announcement.

Other options for patients include molecular tests, which can help pinpoint targeted therapies, and whole exome testing that can identify a diagnosis and treatment for rare diseases, the center said.