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Student JAMA
April 7, 2004

Preparing for Personalized Medicine

JAMA. 2004;291(13):1640. doi:10.1001/jama.291.13.1640-a

Patients demonstrate a wide range of susceptibility to disease. They may also have different clinical outcomes despite similar diagnoses and often exhibit highly variable responses to identical drug therapies. Unfortunately, many of these individual responses are not readily predictable. The idea of personalized medicine—the tailoring of medical care to the unique biological attributes of individual patients—has thus attracted much attention and has widespread appeal.

Despite the popular perception that personalized medicine as a concept owes its existence to the sequencing of the human genome, it in fact predates this recent technological milestone. Landmark epidemiological studies initiated in the 20th century such as the Framingham Heart Study have identified individual risk factors that predict some of the most common and lethal diseases. Measurement of cholesterol levels and blood pressure, for example, have become standard clinical assessments and have given physicians the ability to prospectively to assess disease risk, to select appropriate preventive or treatment interventions, and to make lifestyle recommendations for each individual patient. The newest tools of personalized medicine—which enable direct assessments of genes and the proteins they encode—now provide physicians with a rich source of data that may potentially be used to prevent disease and optimize clinical decisions.

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