Precision medicine holds promise to improve efficacy and side effects of head and neck cancer treatment.
Hearing loss is well positioned for the application of precision medicine strategies because it is commonly caused by a single genetic mutation.
To reap all of the benefits of precision medicine, large datasets need to be collected to make sense of whole genome sequencing data, which comes with privacy issues.
Research Program Aims to Make Precision Medicine More Precise
Precision medicine means treating each patient as an individual. Treatment plans and prevention strategies are tailored to a person’s unique lifestyle, environment, and genetic makeup, rather than to the “average” patient. But for precision medicine to realize its full potential, gaps in medical and scientific knowledge need to be filled with information from a more diverse set of research participants than those studied in the past.
With this premise in mind, as part of the federal government’s Precision Medicine Initiative, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the All of Us Research Program in 2016. NIH was allocated an initial $130 million that fiscal year to build a research participant group comprising one million people nationwide to share information over time through surveys, health records, physical measurements, and biospecimens. “The more we learn about individual differences, the more tailored health care can become,” said Kelly Gebo, MD, MPH, chief medical and scientific officer for the All of Us Research Program at the NIH in Bethesda. “It is especially important that groups historically underrepresented in biomedical research have the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from health studies.”
To achieve its goal, the campaign built a large and diverse nationwide network—including hospitals, universities, community organizations, and corporate partners—to raise awareness about the program and engage different populations. “By ensuring that our research program includes a diverse group demographically, geographically, and medically, we can further understand more about how lifestyle, environment, and biology combine to influence health and disease and move toward more tailored prevention strategies and treatments for everyone,” Dr. Gebo said.
“A push from NIH to better understand the relationships of all of these factors to human health opens tremendous potential for understanding of diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of disease process,” said Charles Yates, MD, neurotologist in the otolaryngology-head and neck surgery department at Riley Children’s Health in Indianapolis, Ind.
All of Us is currently open to U.S. adults aged 18 and older. Healthcare providers should encourage patients to enroll. Learn more at JoinAllofUs.org and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @AllofUsResearch, #JoinAllofUs.—KA