What is personalised medicine?

Traditionally, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach has been used to treat medical conditions, regardless of the type of patient, their lifestyle or the environment they live in. Nowadays, personalised medicine, also known as precision medicine, is widely accepted as improving the way patients are managed. The concept of personalised medicine implies that new approaches are used to better manage the individual health needs of a patient, including the use of targeted therapies to achieve the best outcomes for each patient.

People are different and diseases can behave differently from one person to another; the disease itself can also vary. Scientists have researched certain characteristics, such as our genes and the disease’s biology, to identify groups of people that share common features. This allows doctors to study how certain therapies work in each of these groups and who might benefit best from a certain therapy. Once this is understood, doctors may be able to prescribe a personalised treatment according to the patient’s characteristics. In essence, by using personalised medicine, a doctor aims to find out as much about a patient’s biology as possible, before matching a treatment to their biology that has the best chance of improving the patient’s health.

How can it be applied in allergy treatments?

The following reasons make people with allergic disease well suited to benefit from personalised medicine:

  1. There are established techniques for a doctor to identify the exact cause of the allergy
  2. The way the disease works is known
  3. There are different treatments available: avoidance, symptomatic treatment and possibly AIT

AIT is the repeated administration of small doses of the substance that causes the allergy (an allergen), which leads to a developed tolerance to the allergen. The goal is for patients to become desensitised to the allergen by the end of the treatment. AIT can be administered orally (sublingual immunotherapy or SLIT) or via injection (subcutaneous immunotherapy or SCIT), and comes in different doses.

Recently, a large group of world-renowned doctors came together and agreed that AIT is a unique model of personalised medicine. If a doctor seeks a better understanding of the cause of the allergy, they may be able to prescribe a tailor-made AIT that is in line with the patient’s needs.     

A personalised diagnosis identifies a patient’s allergen sensitivity at the molecular level, which allows for the best choice of treatment (symptomatic treatment and/or AIT). This is becoming possible with new technology and emerging tools which study the proteins, metabolism and genes in a person’s body, as well as the environment they live in, to understand and predict how a disease will progress. This information will not only contribute to predicting how well someone might respond to AIT but also how the disease may be controlled.

In summary, the concept of personalised medicine can enhance and complement AIT by helping to tailor the treatment to a patient’s needs and improving patient outcomes.

If you would like to learn more about how allergies are diagnosed and treated, please see our educational modules here.