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Personalised medicine: no more ‘one size fits all’

Personalised medicine is, as NHS England puts it ‘[…] a move away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the treatment and care of patients with a particular condition’, in favour of using new and different approaches to treatment to manage an individual’s health, to ultimately achieve the best outcome.

The idea of tailoring treatment to an individual is not a new one and is partly in force now, if we think about dosage advice and the kinds of things we’re prescribed, based on what our doctor knows about us, but never has there been a more realistic chance that this idea could be a reality in just a few years.

Last month (October 2017), scientists at the Medical University of Vienna demonstrated a way of using liposomes – currently used in the treatment of types of cancer as well as pain management and fungal infections – for specific targeting, making real strides towards taking the concept of personalised medicine to the next level.

Senior author of the study, Dr Hannes Stockinger, said: “I foresee this as a personalised medicine of the future. Yet, a lot of work is ahead of us to implement this treatment strategy in clinical practice.”

None of us is the same so it’s logical that our treatment shouldn’t be, as our health is dictated by unique differences in our genetic makeup, as well as our lifestyle and environment. This concept led to the NHS’s big data 100K Genome Project, in which 100,000 targeted genomes are analysed with other information to determine patterns that could help to predict an individual’s risk of developing a disease.

It’s hoped that this big data may be used to improve the health of large swathes of the population as, although we are all personally unique, our lifestyles are comparably similar, i.e. if we work in an office environment, whether we smoke or not, how much pollution we are exposed to etc.

We spoke about big data and its perceived benefits to population health earlier in the year. Read more here.

The task for the NHS going forward is understanding how to best implement the idea of personalised medicine across all facets of the healthcare system, and what the term will mean in the future, as technological and scientific advancements stretch the boundaries of ethics and economic impact. 

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