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Down the Road a Ways

Personalized medicine promises to provide patients with treatments specific to their disease based on their own genetic and health profiles, but Technology Review writes that despite the enthusiasm of the White House with its Precision Medicine Initiative, such precision medicine is years away.

"[D]espite the early successes, we are many years from realizing a 'new era of medicine' the president described in his 2015 State of the Union address — if we can realize it at all," Tech Review's Mike Orcutt writes.

That's because the field is still quite young and more data needs to be collected and analyzed, he says. While some drugs have been approved to treat cancers harboring certain variants, not every patient with that profile responds to the treatment and why that is isn't fully clear. Researchers, he says, need to sift through large datasets, like that of the NCI MATCH trial, to determine whether there are other variants that also influence treatment response.

That data also needs to be tied to medical history information and deposited into shared databases so researchers can tease out patterns, Orcutt adds.

Still, he notes that some tests have made it to market, but that many of them are based on uncertain science and regulation is largely lacking. At the same time, tests are expensive, as is developing a drug that might only be of use for a sliver of the population — a situation that may lead drug developers to instead focus on drugs that might treat a larger portion of the population.