No two humans are the same. We like different foods, live in different places and do different things. We are different – from what we eat right down to our DNA.
In the past, providers treated health concerns the same way in all patients. This was based on research that used the average results from a large population. This meant treatments or drugs that worked for 80 percent of people were a good choice and left the other 20 percent without an option.
But now, health care has advanced, and the desire for more individualized health care has grown. There is a need to find the other 20 percent and also offer treatment or drug options for them.
Where precision medicine and research intersect
Precision medicine, and the research that uncovered the individual differences that influence our health and outcomes, uses the DNA you are born with, your diet, exercise and many other factors of your health to determine the best treatments for you.
Precision medicine is a system where we use a lot of information – genetic information, environmental information, dietary information – to tailor your particular medical care in your treatment,” said Scott Hebbring, Ph.D., research scientist at the Center for Precision Medicine Research at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute.
For instance, precision medicine can be used when treating patients with statins for heart disease. Some people who take certain types of statins develop pain in their legs and lower limbs. This is also called peripheral neuropathy.
“We can predict who might develop such an outcome based on their DNA differences and get that in their medical record before we ever prescribe this particular drug,” said Hebbring.
Using research to find health care advancements
Researchers can find health care advancements that help predict responses to particular medications or treatment through precision medicine research. This research has been ongoing for nearly 20 years and requires many participants to provide DNA and health information. Researchers use the information gathered from participants to conduct research and also find new treatments for various health conditions.
Marshfield Clinic Research Institute has been at the forefront of precision medicine research since starting the Personalized Medicine Research Project in 2002. This project successfully gathered health and genetic information from more than 20,000 patients. It has allowed for dozens of studies and medical breakthroughs since its creation.
“This project enabled us to look into the past to understand what kind of health outcomes and problems people have and relate that to variations in their genomes,” said Hebbring. “This allowed us to discover risk factors hidden in our genome that predict whether or not we are more susceptible to cancer, macular degeneration and many other things.”
All of Us is a historic opportunity to help advance medical research
Based partially on this past research success, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched the All of Us Research Program, which is a historic effort to gather data from one million or more people living in the U.S., to accelerate research and improve health. By taking into account individual differences in lifestyle, environment and biology, researchers uncover paths toward delivering precision medicine.
“Patients of Marshfield Clinic Health System have the opportunity to participate in All of Us. Participants in All of Us help advance medical treatments for generations. If you join, we will have data on people just like you,” said Hebbring.
For more information on how to become a participant in All of Us, go to www.JoinAllofUs.org.