The concept of precision medicine is beautifully simple: Deliver the right treatment, every time, to the right person.
As recently as ten years ago, cancer patients were diagnosed according to cancer types—breast, stomach, lung, ovarian, melanoma, etc. For each type of cancer, treatments, more or less, were one-size-fits-all propositions. For example, most melanoma patients received the same treatment regimen. Yet results varied dramatically. Why?
Because diseases do not treat people equally. The cells, molecules, and genes that make each person unique cause diseases that affect each person uniquely. Genetic factors—along with environmental factors—make the same illnesses manifest differently from one person to the next. And that means treatments must be precisely tailored for each individual to maximize effectiveness.
Precision health enables physicians and scientists to get a more precise snapshot of an individual by analyzing lifestyle and behaviors in conjunction with gene sequencing. This will help doctors and healthcare professionals make more informed decisions regarding the most effective course of treatment.
Think of Netflix. Netflix knows its customers. It knows the entire history of what they and viewers like them watch. So it can predict, with some accuracy, the nuances of all their entertainment preferences.
In a similar way, by having thousands of data points about patients at their fingertips, physicians and scientists have the potential to identify diseases in greater detail and administer or create targeted therapies. Based on thousands of data points from other “patients like me,” scientists are able to determine what treatment options will have the greatest likelihood of success. A patient’s DNA can inform doctors about the medicines that will work best for them as well as predict what doses of a particular drug will be most effective.
If this sounds like an expensive endeavor, it is. And gifts of every size are important. Because so much can be gained. Not only does precision health improve care for the individual patient, but widespread genome sequencing and large-scale data analysis will lead to more cost-effective methods to predict, prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases. It can improve outcomes exponentially for people with cancer, autism, heart disease, depression, and more.
UCLA has access to one of the nation’s most ethnically diverse populations, and it leads a clinical research network of hospitals covering approximately seven million patients. Your gift to Precision Health at UCLA will save lives here and lead to discoveries that will help a large proportion of the world’s people.
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Your Gift is Tax Deductible