Personalized Medicine-Optimizing Medical Treatments

By Sandeep Sehgal

Active research in genomics and proteomics over the last decade has opened many opportunities and innovative approaches in healthcare. Genomics is the study of the entire DNA sequence of organisms. Proteomics is the study of proteins with a focus on structure and function.

Personalized medicine is an area gaining attention and showing promising results. Personalized medicine differs from traditional medicine in that it accounts for race, lifestyle, gender and other individual characteristics in order to provide customized care. This medical approach lowers costs by eliminating the high costs of trial-and-error, reducing adverse drug reactions, and improving drug efficacy by only performing treatments that are predicted genetically to be effective.

According to The Jackson Laboratory, the initial benefits already being observed are just the tip of the iceberg. Researchers at this centre have already seen advancements in treating blood clots, colorectal cancer and breast cancer. British Columbia geneticists are using personalized medicine from a different perspective. They are pursuing the use of blood testing instead of a painful biopsy procedure in predicting organ transplant rejection.

Personalized medicine has also created avenues for new technologies. An important technology is gene sequencing. In order for personalized medicine to be effective, the genetic markers of the disease must be identified and compared to the individual. For instance, in colon cancer patients, the most common treatment used is ineffective in 40% of patients. By using gene sequencing in this case, one can save time and money through the elimination of trial-and-error which is common in traditional medicine. In addition, the cost of gene sequencing continues to decrease from $3 billion from the Human Genome Project to $1,000 in the next 6 years, making it more accessible to all.

Although it is difficult to predict the outcome of personalized medicine, the results of this approach have certainly impressed researchers, doctors and patients alike. As more research continues, the applications of personalized medicine will grow and thus transform healthcare.

Sandeep Sehgal is completing an Honours Bachelor of Science degree at University of Toronto Mississauga. She is currently utilizing her skills and knowledge of biotechnology issues as a bio-business intern at the Altitude Accelerator. Upon graduation, she hopes to seek opportunities in R&D for a pharmaceutical company.

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