Personalized medicine is a move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the treatment and care of patients with a particular condition, to one which uses new approaches to better manage patients’ health and targets therapies to achieve the best outcomes in the management of a patient’s disease or predisposition to disease. We are all unique. Our health is determined by our inherent differences combined with our lifestyles and environment. By combining and analyzing information about our genome, with other clinical and diagnostic information, patterns can be identified that can help to determine our individual risk of developing disease; detect illness earlier; and, determine the most effective interventions to help improve our health, be they medicines, lifestyle choices, or even simple changes in diet.
The concept of personalized medicine is not new. Clinicians have been working to personalize care, tailored to people’s individual health needs, throughout the history of medicine, but never before has it been possible to predict how each of our bodies will respond to specific interventions, or identify which of us is at risk of developing an illness. New possibilities are now emerging as we bring together novel approaches, such as whole genome sequencing, data and bioinformatics, and wearable technology. It is the interconnections between these innovations that makes it possible to move to an era of truly personalized care. Technological and scientific advances are already here and will continue to develop and improve medical practice; change is inevitable. For the NHS, we must consider not whether we should go down this path of personalize medicine, but instead how we can best respond and adapt, to ensure everyone benefits – regardless of where people live, the illnesses they have, or where their care is provided.We are on a journey towards embedding a personalized medicine approach into mainstream healthcare. NHS England is beginning a discussion about what we mean by personalized medicine, now and in the future, and the approach we will take, working with our partners, so that we can embrace new approaches, while ensuring that ethical, equality and economic implications are fully understood and addressed.