The value of personalisation

Healthcare professionals have always sought to treat their patients according to individual needs. However, the tools at their disposal have, until recently, been somewhat blunt. Some cancer medicines, for example, do not work equally well in all patients – yet physicians have been unable to tell which patients were most likely to benefit from a particular course of treatment. 

This is changing. As science discovers more about the nature of illness, healthcare professionals are acquiring new powers to predict which medicine will work best for individual patients.

This shift away from the established one-size-fits-all approach and towards tailoring healthcare to patients’ individual needs is known as ‘personalised healthcare’. While this fast-moving field is still in development, the ideal outcome would be for all patients to receive the right treatment at the rise dose at the right time – every time.

It is not yet feasible to provide each individual patient with a unique treatment. However, it is possible, using in vitro diagnostics (IVDs), to divide patients into a number of categories, according to their biological and genetic make-up. 
Assigning a patient to a specific group involves testing for specific indicators known as biomarkers. The presence or absence of a biomarker can predict how the patient will respond to a particular treatment. These tests, known as companion diagnostics, can inform treatment decisions and improve patient outcomes. Companion diagnostics are already used to test for biomarkers for breast cancer, colorectal cancer and certain lung cancers amongst others.

For patients, the value of this approach is clear as the chances of effective treatment are enhanced. For healthcare professionals too, biomarkers give increased confidence that treatment will deliver positive results. And payers and policymakers find reassurance in the fact that treatment decisions informed by companion diagnostics are more cost-effective. In addition, the risk and waste associated with exposing patients to ineffective treatments is reduced – which is good news all round. 

Position paper

Value of Companion Diagnostics in Personalised Medicine

Personalised healthcare provides targeted medical treatment to patients, allowing the right treatment to reach the right patient at the right time. This rapidly growing approach to health is stimulated by the possibilities arising from the use of companion diagnostics, which play an essential role in terms of assessing the appropriateness of a specific pharmacological intervention for an individual patient through prediction and monitoring of response or toxicity related to that pharmacological therapy. Personalised healthcare shifts health systems from being treatment-centred to being comprehensively patient-centred with a care management approach of cost-containment that has the potential to enhance efficacy and reduce adverse events.