“Do you know what personalized medicine means?”
This was the question tech media publisher GigaOm posed to its readers after a recent market study by Gfk revealed that only 27% of US consumers surveyed said they had heard of the term ‘personalized medicine.’
“Plenty of genetic testing and analysis start-ups want to use personalized medicine to revolutionize healthcare — but there’s one thing they may have to do first: help consumers understand what that actually means,” writes GigaOm’s Ki Mae Heussner.
Genetic testing companies like 23andme have started the process with their much-publicized awareness campaign, and benefactors are also getting into the act with large donations to organizations focussing on genetics, cancer and personalized medicine, such as the $5M donation to recently given to the Mayo Clinic.
This is a good start, but it seems that investors have placed enormous amounts of money in companies mainly for genetic studies and characterization. Other companies and organizations also have to help the media and general public understand that personalized medicine involves so much more than genetic testing.
“Omic” Biomarkers: Personalized Medicine Beyond Genetic Testing
Here at the PROOF Centre of Excellence, we focus on identifying blood-based biosignatures of risk and disease which are reflected in changes in a patient’s transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic (“omic”) biomarkers. These changes are not necessarily genetic in origin, that is, people are not “born” with these alterations. Instead, these changes may happen as a result of interactions between one’s genotype, the environment (social, economic, physical, political, etc.), and one’s behaviour (diet, exercise, etc.).
Research around “omic” biomarkers in health and disease can help organizations like ours develop the kinds of laboratory tools (predictives, prognostics, diagnostics or companion diagnostics) that help doctors deliver personalized medicine – the right management at the right time, in the right amount – to each of their patients. Understanding what biomarkers are, whether genetic or non-genetic in origin, is essential to understanding what personalized medicine is and what it means for a patient receiving care.
From Biomarkers to Blood Tests
A recent finding that was widely reported in the news may sharpen the public’s interest and understanding of the importance of biomarkers. Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine identified blood-based biomarkers of suicide risk. If biomarkers for suicide can be identified in the blood, it may only be a matter of time before a diagnostic blood-test is developed and available to physicians. Advances in molecular and computational technologies make this kind of personalized medicine work feasible as well as cost effective.
We know we have our work cut out for us, so we’ll continue to bring awareness to biomarker research, development and commercialization, and how it contributes to the shaping of personalized medicine. And we hope you’ll visit our biomarker learning centre to learn more about personalized medicine that reaches beyond a genetic test.
What would you like to know about biomarkers and personalized medicine?