Personalized Medicine

Precision medicine, sometimes referred to as "personalized" or "individualized" medicine, helps diagnose individuals more accurately. The shift toward precision medicine means that doctors are now able to pinpoint specifics in a particular kind of illness that a patient may have. In recent years, powerful advances in diagnostic computing technology, genetic sequencing, and new bioinformatics tools have allowed physicians to make extremely accurate diagnoses that may uncover a better understanding of the particular underlying makeup of the illness that a patient has.  

This better understanding can open up new approaches in treating the illness more effectively because, rather than relying on a process of trial and error or using treatments that apply to the "average" patient, precision medicine can provide a more individual or custom-tailored approach for treatment strategies. Through analyses of disease at the molecular level or below, precision medicine can match patients with the most effective treatment options available, determine the optimal dosage for drugs, or avoid treatment options with little promise of success for certain genetic profiles.

Precision diagnostics can identify patients who might benefit from current, often cutting-edge therapies, while sparing those who do not have a particular genetic signature from the costs and side effects of certain treatments.

Most importantly perhaps, precision medicine can significantly reduce the time conventional diagnostic approaches require, allowing patients and their loved ones to make informed decisions – when time matters most.

The Department is actively involved in a number of different personalized medicine approaches, including personalized cancer diagnostics, immunotherapy, and other therapeutic pathology procedures such as apheresis.

Resources at the Penn Center for Precision Medicine.

For more information about how precision medicine is used in cancer treatment at Penn Medicine, please read a “Focus Cancer” post on understanding personalized diagnostics.

For a specific case study using next-generation sequencing for targeted cancer therapies, please read the Penn Medicine clinical briefing on a patient with lung cancer.

The White House’s recent Precision Medicine Initiative website provides a good overview of specific areas where precision medicine is used effectively and successfully already.