Throughout the history of medicine, scientists and health professionals have found that two patients treated with the same drug could have different responses. While some responded adequately to treatment, others showed no change or manifested adverse effects. Precision medicine was born with the purpose of analyzing these evidences to better understand diseases, know how they affect each individual, classify them based on how they occur in different groups of patients and thus adjust preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic measures to each one. from them.
“The possibilities of precision medicine are enormous,” says Miquel Balcells, Medical Director of the biotechnology company Amgen in Spain. “The application of the genetic knowledge that our researchers are finding is changing the way of investigating and discovering new, more selective drugs, which allow us to deal with many of the most serious diseases,” he explains.
Currently, this new approach to medicine implies that decisions about prevention, diagnosis and treatment are made based on the integration of the genomic composition of the disease, the medical history, the family history and the lifestyle of each patient .
With the development of new biological drugs and the improvement in technology to study diseases at the molecular level, precision medicine represents a true revolution in the prioritization of individualized treatments, achieving more accurate diagnoses and the administration of more effective and safer medications. than traditional ones.
Higher response rate
Currently the largest field of application of precision medicine is Oncology. Molecular knowledge of cancer has changed the prognosis of this disease by increasing survival in different types of tumors and allowing the adoption of new preventive measures. In fact, according to data from the Spanish Association of Bioempresas (AseBio), thanks to precision medicine carried out with new biological drugs, the response rate in cancer treatments reaches the figure of 30.6% compared to 4 , 9% of traditional treatments.
“Cancer treatment is a clear example of precision medicine brought into daily clinical practice. After years of research, our scientists have confirmed that there are genetic mutations that can cause cancer to appear, grow, or spread. They have also discovered that the changes that occur in a person’s tumor may not occur in other patients with the same disease, but, on the contrary, they can appear in other types of cancer, ”explains Balcells.
According to experts, the key lies in the gene involved, which may be the same in different types of tumors. This finding makes it possible to characterize tumors not by where they are found in the body, but by their genetic characteristics, suggesting that drugs initially developed for one type of tumor may be useful in other types of cancer.
“More than 500 genetic mutations have been discovered that play an important role in the development and growth of some types of cancer. Advances in the understanding of oncogenic mechanisms make it possible to design selective drugs that block mutations that initiate or contribute to cancer progression, says Balcells.
“At present, with the knowledge provided by biotechnological innovation, it is possible to better identify the type of tumor and this, on occasions, allows us to offer a different treatment to each patient based on the genetic characteristics of the disease. Targeted treatment contributes to improving the quality of life and reduces exposure to less effective drugs ”, comments Dr. Pilar Garrido, Section Chief of the Medical Oncology Service at the Ramón y Cajal University Hospital in Madrid.
According to this oncologist, “in recent decades there has been an increase in the survival of patients in different types of tumors due to preventive campaigns and early diagnosis, but also thanks to advances in molecular diagnosis and pharmacological innovation ”.
Oncology continues to be the therapeutic area in which there is a greater number of biological drugs being investigated in Spain, according to data from AseBio. “If we want to take advantage of the full potential of biotechnological innovation, the commitment of both the central government and the different regional administrations is essential, as well as adequate funding that supports public-private research in this field and facilitates its application to the clinical environment, ”Underlines the Medical Director of biotechnology Amgen.
For her part, Dr. Garrido highlights “the importance of the National Health System incorporating diagnostic techniques that identify predictive biomarkers of treatment efficacy to the portfolio of services, guaranteeing access to precision medicine. It is also necessary to design strategies that ensure equitable access for all subsidiary patients of these innovative therapies. Without any doubt, the National Strategy for Precision Medicine promoted by the Ministry of Science and Innovation will have a positive effect on patient access to biotechnological innovation ”, he concludes.