How personal is personalized medicine?
In recent years, the old idea of individually tailored treatment has been given several new names, including personalized medicine, precision medicine, and sometimes genomic medicine.
These terms could easily suggest that treatment is actually tailored to the individual, like with custom-made dental (tooth) crowns. But most examples of personalized medicine are still about treatments for larger groups of patients. The difference is that more factors and patient characteristics are taken into account nowadays when deciding which treatment group people should be in. The scientific term for this approach is "stratification," so it is also sometimes referred to as stratified medicine.
Regardless of which term is used, they basically all mean the same thing: Before deciding whether to try out a certain treatment, a more accurate diagnosis is made. This often involves doing laboratory tests to measure the levels of certain substances in your blood, take a closer look at your cell metabolism or examine your genetic material using DNA analysis. Personalized medicine is based on these biological markers, also known as "biomarkers." Many biomarkers were only discovered in the last few years.
So, nowadays, personalized medicine actually means using a specific combination of tests and treatments. Depending on the test results, a specific treatment will be recommended.