Increasingly, doctors are discovering new ways to use our genetic profile gene variations inherited from our ancestors to determine our risk of developing illnesses such as asthma, schizophrenia, arthritis, and cancer, and also to steer the way toward the most effective treatments. "This strategy allows us to stop practicing medicine by the law of averages and actively tailor management of health care to the individual by looking at who's at risk and how we can personalize their treatment, therapy, surgery, and lifestyle," says Charis Eng, M.D., director of the Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute.
Personalized medicine which involves gathering information from a comprehensive family medical history and blood tests is already a doctor's most powerful weapon against a number of cancers. For example, there are five types of breast cancer-susceptible genes, and each is associated with additional types of cancer. So if you carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, for instance, you also have an up to 80 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer (compared with a lifetime risk of 11 percent among those without the gene mutation). This cutting-edge research suggests that personalized medicine can also be applied to lowering blood pressure, alleviating depression, and even helping smokers quit.
The rapid growth of personalized medicine may soon be regulated by legislation. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act seeks to protect against employment and insurance discrimination based on genetic information, and is expected to be signed into law in the coming months.