Precision medicine, mostly referred to as personalised medicine is an emerging approach to medical treatment and prevention that considers individual characteristics of each patient. According to the NRC (National Research Council) in the US, impact of precision medicine has helped huge amount of patients. As this type of treatment, does not literally mean the creation of specific drugs or medical devices unique to a patient. But the ability to classify individuals into sub-populations that differ in their susceptibility to a particular disease or in their response to a specific treatment. Conversely, the other method which is a one-size-fits-all approach, doesn’t take into account individual differences and uses medical treatment options developed for the average person. By 2025, the world precision medicine market is expected to hit an estimated 119.90 billion dollars.

Impact of Precision Medicine on Healthcare

Precision medicine can help improve people’s health outcomes and lead to a faster and accurate diagnosis with the right treatment options. Data of a person’s genetic makeup, and variables like genes, demography, medical history and lifestyle are gathered to analyse what components of genes can lead to diseases. In the one-size-fits-all approach, doctors use a series of trial and error methods to zero in on the right treatment for individual patients.

With the use of precision medicine, patients don’t have to deal with long waiting periods, anxiety or various side effects while seeking treatment. Lesser visits mean that patients can save money on treatment. Since the approach is fairly new, the treatment can be expensive in the beginning, but as technology evolves, prices may fall and affordability will increase. Currently, the use of precision medicine is fairly limited in day-to-day healthcare. There is a hope that it may expand to many more areas of healthcare in the future.

Where Can Precision Medicine Make a Difference?

Precision medicine is already being used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and could potentially be helpful in the treatment of conditions like depression, diabetes, autoimmune disease, heart disease and Parkinson’s. Standardised access to data of high-density information across patients is a challenge in the precision medicine sector.

Doctors can use genome sequences to check the linkage of DNA signatures to certain diseases or responses of the human body to certain drugs. For instance, if some individuals process a drug faster, they may need higher doses of the drug as compared to those who break down the medicine at a slower metabolic rate. So, by using genome sequences of a large number of individuals and comparing the DNA signatures with a specific disease phenotype or drug response, doctors can zero in on specific drugs, dosage and duration to treat diseases.

Cellular therapy or bioactive therapy can also aid doctors in providing precision medicine treatment to patients, for diseases like cancer. Cells can be grown to replace parts of an organ and can be modified using genome editing technologies. So, new fields of medicine like regenerative medicine and cellular therapy can utilise cell-based products to develop personalised treatment for patients. Eventually, there will be technological advancements in these areas and the day is not far off when precision medicine becomes an affordable option for the general population.

Precision Medicine: The Way Forward for India

Based on the most recent UN data, India’s population is estimated at 1.37 billion. The number of patients suffering from genetic disorders is growing at a constant rate in the country. India is an ethnically diverse country with about 4,000 population groups and a sizeable number of consanguineous marriages. Due to these factors, there is a high risk and widespread presence of genetic diseases and an increasing need for accurate diagnosis, treatment and management.

India is an emerging market for genomics and is expected to be a major stakeholder in the fast-growing global genomics industry. Personalised medicine and personalised diagnostics can significantly lower healthcare costs in India. Impact of precision medicine in India is already seen in several specialties like cardiology, oncology, psychiatry, reproductive treatment and diabetology in the country.

The US and EU markets already have access to resources, raw materials, funding and regulations that make it easier for them to practice precision medicine. There is a gap in the infrastructure, skilled doctors, regulation and availability of local genomics data in India, which if addressed can make Personalised medicine affordable in the future.

By Dr. Manish Chandra

Radiation Oncology and Medical Oncology  Jupiter Hospital