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Not Yet Precise

Judging by reports on precision medicine, Liz Szabo writes in an op-ed at the New York Times that you'd think that it works each and every time, though that's not the case.

She notes that doctors, hospitals, and reporters like to discuss patients that have been successfully treated by precision medicine. But Szabo, a health reporter for Kaiser Health News, points out that these successes are rare, and precision medicine is more likely to not work. A study last year in Cancer Discovery estimated that precision medicine didn't help the vast majority — 93 percent — of patients, she adds.

While Szabo notes that there has been progress in determining which genetic mutations may be important in particular tumors, available drugs can target only some of them and, even then, she adds, those drugs don't always have the desired effect.

"The phrase 'precision medicine' suggests a high rate of success," she writes. "While its successes should be celebrated, its failures must be acknowledged, reminding us how much is left to learn."