Friday, May 6, 2016
Toward precision medicine and health: Opportunities and challenges in allergic diseases
“Precision medicine” is a term that’s quickly gaining currency across all the different fields of medicine. Specifically referring to the customization of healthcare in the context of each patient’s unique characteristics, including genetic and other biometric information, precision medicine seems to be on the cutting edge of healthcare. But as Galli writes in this month’s issue, allergists have long prided themselves on a high degree of precision by testing for specific allergens and immunizing accordingly (J Allergy Clin Immunol 2016; 137(5): 1289-1300). But now, with newer insights into genes and even the microbiome, we can take this precision medicine to another level. Mining data from what is called the Information Commons – which includes the set of genetic and environmental factors predisposing to and/or exacerbating disease in individual patients – may help to devise approaches to more precisely and effectively diagnose and treat allergic disorders, or even to prevent these diseases.
The overarching goal is to move away from the “trial and failure” approach, where providers try therapeutics from the first-line down to the third- or fourth-line agents just to see if the approach works, towards a targeted selection of a treatment that is most likely to work. Of course, all of this is easier said than done. There is a lot of information about allergic disease that remains unknown and prevents us from applying precision medicine. And even in diseases where a lot of data are available, we have yet to organize these data in a way that can move from the abstract towards a specific precise approach for a single patient.