The Benefits of Personalized Medicine

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n a way, personalized medicine has been around for as long as people have been practicing medicine. In fact, Hippocrates, Greek physician and so-called "Father of Western Medicine" who practiced some 2,500 years ago, was himself a proponent of personalized medicine (Sykiotis et al., 2005). For example, in one of his over 70 works of ideas and teachings, Hippocrates wrote about the individuality of disease and the necessity of giving "different [drugs] to different patients, for the sweet ones do not benefit everyone, nor do the astringent ones, nor are all the patients able to drink the same things." Whereas Hippocrates evaluated factors like a person's "constitution," age, and "physique," as well as the time of year, to aid his decision making when prescribing drugs, twenty-first-century personalized medicine is all about DNA. Today, the goal of personalized medicine is to utilize information about a person's genes, including his or her nucleotide sequence, to make drugs better and safer. But even though scientific and industry experts have been predicting the arrival of DNA-based personalized medicine since at least the 1980s and the early days of the Human Genome Project, there are only a handful of gene-based personalized medicine success stories to date. Her2/neu and Response to Breast Cancer Treatment

One of these success stories is the use of the Her2/neu gene as a predictor of breast cancer patients' responses to a drug called Herceptin. Her2/neu codes for a protein receptor (the Her2 receptor) that plays an important role in the signal transduction pathways involved with cell growth and differentiation. All breast tissue cells are coated with Her2 receptors, but apparently too much of a good thing can be devastating. Specifically, in about 15 to 20% of women with invasive breast cancer, the cancer cells over express Her2 new by as much as 100 times. In other words, these women have hyperactive Her2/new genes; this causes them to make too many Her2...
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