Personalized medicine is gaining prominence in many areas of clinical research. In particular, recent advances in whole genome sequencing have led to the characterization of genes conferring disease risk or likelihood of response to treatment, allowing the development of individualized risk assessment and therapy. In light of the progress in patient-tailored medicine across many therapeutic areas, BMC Medicine has launched a new article collection: “Personalized medicine: genes, biomarkers and tailored treatment”.
Oncology has paved the way for personalized medicine. Since the discovery of HER2 over-expression in certain subtypes of breast and ovarian cancer, HER2-targeted therapy such as trastuzumab has been developed and used successfully to treat patients with HER2-positive cancer. Targeted therapies are increasingly being used for the treatment of other cancer types, and many tumor markers that indicate progression and therapy response have been characterized. International efforts are underway to discover new cancer biomarkers and validate genetic markers in the clinic as part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium. An example of such a collaboration is the CAGEKID project, which aims to identify novel biomarkers for renal cancer, one of the few tumor types for which there are currently no clinical biomarkers in routine use. In a review article, Rosamonde Banks and colleagues from Cancer Research UK University of Leeds discuss the characterization of renal cancer biomarkers and describe current approaches to validate them.
Personalized medicine is also gaining recognition in the field of neurology. Recent efforts employing the genome-wide association approach have identified new genetic variants that confer stroke risk. Hugh Markus from St George’s University of London discusses these advances in a review article, and describes how genetic variants affecting clopidogrel and warfarin metabolism could be used to select which patients will respond better to therapy, in a pharmacogenomic approach to stroke treatment. In a minireview article to be published soon in BMC Medicine, Tobias Derfuss from University Hospital Basel discusses recent progress made in biomarker discovery for the disease course and treatment outcome of multiple sclerosis (MS), and describes how a personalized approach to MS treatment can be developed.
In psychiatry, patient-tailored treatment is being employed in terms of analyzing individual patient history to guide the most appropriate pharmacological treatment strategy. Robert Belmaker and colleagues from Ben Gurion University of the Negev discuss this approach in a commentary, and explain how clinical trials should take into account the different subtypes of bipolar depression in order to identify the most effective drug for treatment of individual patients. A commentary by Michael Berk and colleagues from Deakin University describes how doctors and patients should work together in a collaborative approach to better understand patients’ individual factors and provide more personalized treatment.
This ongoing article collection covers recent advances in personalized medicine across all areas of medicine, demonstrating that patient-tailored treatment is being employed for some diseases, whereas more research is required to translate scientific advances into the clinic for others. Queries about potential submissions for the series can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.