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Precision vs. personalized medicine: What's the difference?

Both terms get used to mean essentially the same thing but there are some subtleties that distinguish them.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

From personalized to precision medicine, the evolution has begun. The terms precision medicine and personalized medicine are often used interchangeably and are also defined differently by various groups.

From a government perspective, it's about genomic and cancer research. From a consumer perspective, it means therapy tailored for them as individuals.

As precision and personalized medicine become more a part of clinical decision-making, the healthcare community is leaning towards a delineation that precision medicine involves professional judgement for risk stratification that goes beyond the individual. This is opposed to personalized medicine, in which patients come armed with limited information about their genetic profiles, according to the AMA Journal of Ethics.

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Personalized medicine is the older term, according to the National Research Council. The scientific community changed to precision medicine out of concern that personalized would imply treatments and preventions developed uniquely for the individual.

However, Daryl Pritchard, PhD, who is with the Personalized Medicine Coalition, said the term personalized medicine includes a needed, broader definition.

"Everyone has different definitions," said Pritchard, senior vice president for Science Policy for PMC. "We try to talk about personalized medicine encompassing the whole picture for decision making."
Some people view precision medicine as including the technology side, as in pharmacology, the science of developing medications tailored to a person's genes; or genomics, the science of molecular biology that involves the mapping of genomes.
Precision medicine is still a relatively new field, having opened up since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2013.

Moving forward, look for both terms to evolve as physicians come to rely on a genetic understanding of a disease or a condition, to treat patients.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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