The federal Precision Medicine Initiative announced on January 2015 has enjoyed broad support, but there are detractors. Soon after the announcement, Dr. Michael Joyner wrote an op-ed in the New York Times with the view that the Initiative will not deliver as promised. his opinion prompted a large number of replies both pro and con. In July 2015, Dr. Timothy Caulfield wrote in a British Medical Journal blog downplaying the notion that personalized medicine should be considered a “revolution” and would likely follow the same path as other so-called genetic revolutions. In May 2015, Larry Husten, a medical journalist writing in Forbes, takes issue with the rosy predictions of Victor Dzau, president of the institute of Medicine on the future of personalized medicine.
What are we to make of these opinions? In essence, do not look to personalized medicine as a panacea for human illnesses. The initial focus of the Initiative will be on cancer, an area in which personalized treatments are already well underway. Additionally, personalized medicine is showing promise in treating minor diseases affecting a small number of people when the disease is due to a single genetic mutation. The personalized medicine approach may not work as well in treating major diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. These diseases are more likely to be manifested due to environmental or lifestyle factors rather than defective genes,
Reservations aside, the Precision Medicine Initiative is a very welcome development. It will identify and test new targets for diagnosis and treatment of diseases, and will advance medical research. The funds made available for the Initiative represents a small fraction of the National Institutes of Health budget, so will not handicap other vital projects of the NIH.
- Caulfield, Timothy. “Genetics and Personalized Medicine: Where’s the Revolution?” BMJ Blogs, July 23, 2015. Caulfield-BMJ Blogs
- Husten, Larry. “Precision Medicine Approaches Peak Hype.” Forbes, May 6, 2015. Forbes
- Joyner, Michael. “Moonshot Medicine Will Let Us Down.” New York Times, Jan. 29, 2015. Joyner-NY Times
PMI Image. Credit: The White House