ICPerMed Webbanner

What is Personalised Medicine?

  • Why does it happen that a treatment for a certain disease works very well for one person, but poorly or not at all for the next person?
  • What does our genetic profile tell us about chances and risks for our health?
  • Going even further, how can molecular, clinical or lifestyle data support preventing, diagnosing or treating disease?

These are just some of the questions that personalised medicine tries to find answers for.

Some argue that medicine has always been personalised. And of course, there is a lot of truth in this. Each medical doctor who takes his or her work seriously will try to find the best possible solution for the patient at hand. What is new is the vast amount of different kinds of data that add to the direct medical data. These have the potential to support diagnosis and treatment decisions or even allow for prevention strategies. It is the goal of personalised medicine to make this happen. To some extent, these approaches are in use already today, mostly in the cancer field. For example, molecular markers can define subgroups of patients that respond differently to a certain kind of treatment. In the long term, the vision is to use the full power of each individual’s environmental and molecular characteristics to improve health care.

Personalised medicine is special because it is a cross-cutting field that can only succeed if expertise and data from very different disciplines and sectors is brought together. In addition, the implementation of personalised medicine approaches has effects on all citizens and patients in our societies across Europe and beyond. A concerted effort is needed to make progress. Therefore not only national and regional governments but also European institutions are dealing with questions on how to best govern and implement personalised medicine in our health care systems.

As a starting point, the term “personalised medicine” itself needs to be defined as this determines future fields of actions and responsibilities. The work of ICPerMed is based on the definition of personalised medicine given in the European Council Conclusion on personalised medicine for patients (2015/C 421/03).

It states “[…] that it is widely understood that personalised medicine refers to a medical model using characterisation of individuals’ phenotypes and genotypes (e.g. molecular profiling, medical imaging, lifestyle data) for tailoring the right therapeutic strategy for the right person at the right time, and/or to determine the predisposition to disease and/or to deliver timely and targeted prevention.”