By Joslyn R. Kirby, MD
Personalized medicine is more than just a buzzword, it’s the future of healthcare. A rapidly growing medical model, precision medicine enables providers to tailor medical diagnoses and treatments based on the genetic profile of an individual patient. This results in personalized healthcare rather than a one-size-fits-most approach.
Personalized Medicine in Dermatology
The opportunities for application of personalized medicine in dermatology are significant. In recent years, there have been vast amount of new therapeutics available to treat a variety of skin conditions. While access to more treatment options is a good thing, challenges come with it. In many cases, dermatologists and patients face a complicated and lengthy path to diagnosing and managing a skin condition, based on a trial-and-error approach of attempting one therapy after another until eventually identifying one that works. Precision medicine can help change that process.
By collecting genetic information through precision diagnostic approaches, providers can determine which therapeutic options are most likely to be effective for a patient. This can reduce the months – or even years – it takes to get a patient’s skin condition and resulting symptoms under control. For example, suppose there are 20 treatment options available for a particular skin condition. Being able to narrow that down to a smaller number based on an individual’s genetic information would provide a significant advantage.
Personalized approaches empower providers to recommend treatments with higher confidence, while simultaneously mitigating the patient’s risk of spending time and money on failed therapies. Overall, this helps providers to more efficiently administer the right treatment for the right patient at the right time.
Precision Dermatology in Action
Many organizations are dedicated to the research and development efforts necessary to advance personalized medicine and solidify its place within dermatology. For example, DermTech StratumTM provides translational medicine services that enable biomarker analysis of RNA, DNA, protein and microbiome. It leverages the Smart Sticker™, an adhesive patch that painlessly collects cellular material from the surface of a patient’s skin, to be used for precision genomic and proteomic analysis. This provides a valuable tool in the hands of dermatologists for more informed decision-making. Given its non-invasive nature, the Smart StickerTM also has a significant benefit in reducing the number of new wounds and scars patients experience from more intrusive collection methods—many of whom have already suffered through enough invasive procedures.
Implications for Specific Skin Conditions
It’s encouraging to consider how personalized medicine can assist with specific and complex skin conditions, such as hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) – a chronic skin condition that causes lumps in places such as the armpits or groin. Along with intense pain, many HS patients experience discomfort, itchiness, scarring and more.
As more HS therapies are created and obtain FDA approval, there is an enormous opportunity to use genomics platforms in developing parameters to predict whether an individual patient suffering from HS will successfully respond to a particular treatment.
For providers, this additional information makes it easier to converse with patients – and with insurance companies – about why a specific therapy makes the most sense.
Without personalized medicine, providers must continue to rely heavily on their own experience combined with a broad set of guidelines to treat HS and other devastating conditions. With it, we are one step closer to filling the gap between where patients are today and where they should be.
The Future Lies in Personalization
Applying cutting-edge technology and personalized approaches to disease control and treatment options will have a positive impact for years to come.
As the future of dermatological treatment unfolds, there will undoubtedly be increased opportunity to use personalized medicine to help both providers and patients make more informed decisions when treating skin conditions.