hEalth · FOCUS FINLAND 2011 We are all individual, so shouldn't we get customised treatment for our diseases? By LEENA KOSKENLAAKSO PhotoS By ISTOCKPHOTO AND GARy WORNELL R Up close and personal Knowles should know, for he is a world-recognised authority and proponent of personalised medicine with over twenty years of experience at the senior executive level in the global pharmaceutical industry. esearchers in Finland have a good picture of what hereditary diseases people are susceptible to, based on where they and their parents grew up. Such genetic mapping helps understand the causes of different diseases and gives researchers insight into their treatment. "But the information we get from genes is only part of the story," says Professor Jonathan Knowles of the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM). "The other part is the environment. We haven't yet understood enough to predict what is going to happen to each of us, based on what is written in the genome." What has now changed, however, is the dramatic explosion in opportunities for new diagnostics and therapies. This upsurge has taken place in the last five years as a result of the application of molecular technologies to medicine. "These studies have direct implications. When the correct therapy is defined for a patient, a better result is obviously achieved." Farewell to ineffective remedies Up until now, doctors have treated diseases with more or less standard therapeutic regimes. Today, the focus is shifting to personalised medicine. About time, too. According to Professor Arto Urtti of the Centre for Drug Research at the University of Helsinki, only three out of every ten patients who take a certain drug get real help from it. Another three take their medication irregularly so it doesn't help them much. A further three take it, but it doesn't help them at all. And the tenth unlucky patient only gets worse. Knowles has similar experiences: "Every time you run a clinical trial which is the most precise form of testing new drugs and therapies usually between one-third and two-thirds of the patients do not respond to the treatment." Knowles is convinced molecular personalisation of therapy is the answer. 6
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