precision medicine

Precision Medicine: The Upcoming Approach to Disease Treatment and Prevention

Most medical procedures follow a one-size-fits-all strategy for the "typical patient," which may work for some people but not others. However, precision medicine is an upcoming cutting-edge medical technology customising treatment and prevention of disease. It includes targeting specific medications to appropriate patients.

Read to discover more about this exciting new disease treatment and prevention approach and how it could benefit you and your loved ones.

What is precision medicine?

Precision medicine is an emerging strategy for disease prevention and cure that considers each patient’s variations in genetics, environment, and lifestyle.

This strategy enables modern physicians and scientists to make precise predictions about which specific treatment and preventative measures will be effective in various groups of people. It starts with a treatment plan that typically includes precise medications based on individual patient data from specific lab tests.

What is another name for precision medicine?
Precision medicine is also called personalised or genomic medicine since the patient’s unique genetic profile is strongly linked.

How does precision medicine work?

Targeted treatment of a disease in a specific population group is known as precision medicine.

Over many years of study, researchers have gained greater knowledge about the genetics of underlying illnesses' onset and behaviour.

It has been noted that there is a connection between gene alterations and several diseases. The Human Genome Project has provided scientists with a blueprint of all genes in the human body.

This blueprint demonstrates how specific gene mutations can result in a particular disease. It also shows how one individual's cancer, heart disease, or diabetes behaves differently from another's and the multiple ways the disease responds to therapy.

This knowledge enables doctors to make adjustments based on understanding how genes and illnesses interact.

Take cancer as an example. The doctor will first test the malignant tumour to check its response to various treatments. Then, since different people may react differently to a medication, the doctor will select the medication best matched to the individual patient's genes that caused cancer.

Why is precision medicine important?
Precision medicine is essential because it allows the medical practitioner to utilise a person's unique genetic profile to identify disease risk or presence before clinical signs and symptoms emerge.

As a result, it provides the ability to concentrate on early detection and prevention of the disease rather than the response at an advanced phase.

Additionally, it reduces adverse drug reactions (ADRs) and ensures a higher success rate in therapeutic outcomes.

How effective is precision medicine?
Precision medicine is still in its developmental stages, and research on its effectiveness offers mixed results. Oncology is a primary focus areas of precision medicine.

Medications like Imatinib have shown a high response rate of about 95% in patients suffering from Chronic Myeloid Leukemia and have resulted in extending the quality-adjusted life expectancy by approximately 9 years. Similarly, other precision medications like Venetoclax showed an 80% response rate in patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. (Source: Jama Network)

However, just 8% of cancer patients are believed to be qualified for licensed precision medicines as of January 2018, and only 5% of those patients would benefit from using them.

When is precision medicine used?

Precision medicine is applied when treating illnesses that respond to the same treatment differently in different patients.

For example, it treats conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and other diseases requiring long-term therapy.

Is precision medicine the future of healthcare?
Precision medicine is still in its developmental stage as of now. Researchers are investigating the role genetics play in treating and preventing every disease. However, the genetic component of most conditions is still not completely understood, and even when it is, researchers may not always have a ready-made cure.

However, with so much research going on, it should not be long until most, if not all, people can gain from these treatments.

"Basket trials," in which cancer treatments are recommended based on a tumour's genetic mutation rather than its kind, is one promising field of study. These clinical trials offer patients access to several medications that doctors may not often administer, which may bring fresh hope for malignancies that are challenging to treat.

Advantages of precision medicine

Here are some benefits of precision medicine:

Discovers the disease
The illnesses that run in your family and your risk of developing them can be determined via genetic testing. You can get tested for a disease if you know you are at risk and then use precision medicine to treat it even before the symptoms manifest. For example, cancer and other disorders are easier to treat at the initial stages.

Prevent the disease
Knowing your genes that may potentially result in disease could help you take preventive measures. You may be able to adjust your lifestyle, take preventive steps or seek medical assistance to avoid the illness.

For instance, breast cancer risk increases among women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. As a result, these women could decide to undergo a mastectomy or surgery to remove both breasts to reduce their risk.

Customised treatments for the disease
Your genetic make-up can assist your doctor in prescribing a medication that might be most effective for you with minimal side effects. Even determining the correct drug dosage can be aided by precision medicine.    

Fewer side effects
Since precision medication is a targeted therapy that only attacks the cancerous cells (and not the healthy cells), patients may be able to avoid the typical side effects associated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other traditional approaches.

Higher chances of recovery
This targeted treatment approach is more likely to produce the desired results as opposed to traditional techniques. Since this is a DNA-specific approach, it offers a more accurate diagnosis and, thereby, higher chances of recovery.

Disadvantages of precision medicine

Precision medicine is expensive
Precision medicine has a hefty price tag because of the diagnostic procedures, genetic testing, and research and development costs.

Screening and assessing potential patients is usually expensive.

Primary care workforce training
Primary care paramedics and other professionals must be prepared to handle precision medicine plans as their quantity and effectiveness expand. However, creating training programmes and developing suitable teaching materials for health networks and providers worldwide remains challenging.

Precision medicine in cancer

Doctors now use precision medicine to determine the most compelling investigations and treatments for specific cancers.

To assist patients in their fight against this deadly disease, doctors may use precision medicine to:

  1. Determine individuals who may be at a higher than average risk of developing cancer and assist them in reducing it.

  2. Find warning indications of the existence of some cancers.

  3. Identify a particular form of cancer.

  4. Select the most effective treatment alternatives for a specific form of the disease.

  5. Assess the effectiveness of a treatment to destroy cancer cells.


What is the difference between precision medicine and personalised medicine?

The phrases "personalised medicine" and "precision medicine" have a lot in common. The National Research Council stated in their 2011 report titled "Towards Precision Medicine" that "personalised medicine" is an earlier phrase with a meaning similar to "precision medicine".

However, there was worry that the term "personalised medicine" may be misconstrued to indicate that medicines and preventions are being produced specifically for every patient.

Consequently, the National Research Council adopted the term "precision medicine" over "personalised medicine" to avoid confusion. Nonetheless, the two names are occasionally used synonymously.

How does precision medicine differ from traditional medicine?
Drugs and other treatments used in traditional medicine are created to treat a vast population who suffer from the same sickness, such as diabetes or cancer.

As a result, most doctors base your medication on what is most likely to be effective for everyone with that ailment while considering factors like sex, age, and weight.

However, precision medicine is a method of customising illness diagnosis and treatment that considers variations in people's genetics, surroundings, and lifestyles.

Precision medicine examples

  1. Pam suffers from Lung Cancer Stage 4. Pam's doctor started with chemotherapy but Pam show poor respond to the treatment and deteriorate further . Pam's doctor decided to do Genomic testing which is Lung Cancer panel. Result show positive of PD-L1 mutation. Consequently, by using precision medicine strategy, Pam's doctor prescribes immunotherapy and it show good respond in managing Pam Lung Cancer.

  1. Sarah has been diagnosed with early stage Breast Cancer. She underwent breast removal surgery. Conventionally all Breast Cancer patient need to start with Chemotherapy. However Sarah's doctor decided to used Precision Medicine strategy by using Genomic Testing of Breast Recurrence Score Test. Result show Sarah have low score which indicate that chemotherapy is not needed to treat Sarah Breast Cancer. Ultimately Sarah can avoid unnecessary cancer treatment that has potential to have many side effect and aid selection of targeted therapy. Since then she able to achieve cancer remission.

Is precision medicine covered by insurance?

Insurance often pays for precision medicine, especially for cancer treatment. However, coverage for genetic testing varies, especially if you're doing it to prevent, not cure, a disease.

Many hospitals and medical centres have staff to help determine your insurance coverage.


The age of precision medicine is here to challenge the conventional medical world and health care systems. At a reasonable cost, can we translate the breakthrough in genetic profile understanding into significant advances in the healthcare system?

Targeting the appropriate medications to the appropriate patients at the right time is the aim of precision medicine.

Prudential Malaysia covers precision medicine in their range of treatments for cancer. Additionally, plans like PRUCancer X, can help cover other treatment and rehabilitaiton expenses for cancer.