Archive for February, 2012

P4 Medicine – a new revolutionary approach to treat diseases?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

The term “P4 Medicine” was first introduced more than 5 years ago by the researcher Leroy Hood in an attempt to change medicine from a reactive to a proactive perspective. The ultimate goal of this “futuristic medicine” is to maximize wellness for each individual rather than just treat the disease. P4 stands for the letter “P” in four words: Predictive, Preventive, Personalized and Participatory (for more information see “Predictive, personalized, preventive, participatory (P4) cancer medicine” by Hood and Friend). Emerging from debates related to health care system reform and translational research, this new way of thinking about medicine has put the focus on the patients, other than the physicians. P4 medicine utilizes four interconnected aspects to improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of health management at the individual level. The first “P” that stands for Predictive medicine studies the risk factors, predispositions, and genetic susceptibilities that exist before issues arise by the use of genetic testing and genome sequencing, technologies that have evolved in the last decade. This gives the patient and their health care team warning signs long before a disease is diagnosed. It also gives information that can influence changes in the diet and lifestyle of individuals. The second “P” for Preventive medicine uses the knowledge of the risk factors learned from predictive medicine to change a person’s behavior. It also helps in pre-disease treatments and early screening helping cut off the development of more serious conditions. The third “P” is for Personalized medicine in which each individual will respond differently to treatments. This helps the physician understand what works and what does not work. Personalized or individualized medicine studies and treats each individual as a unity and the current system of health care attempts to treat patients in a universal fashion, which is wrong. The knowledge and access to multiple treatment options as well as better predictions on what works more effectively will help patients and their health care team in selecting the treatment to best meet the patient needs, thus personalizing the medical experience. The fourth and last “P” is for Participatory medicine in which the patient and doctor relationship will become more interactive, helping in better diagnosis and effective treatments. Participation in health care decisions empowers the patient and can encourage innovation among the health care team. Importantly, the emergence of the Web 2.0 and social media websites is facilitating these interactions. Social Media is also empowering individuals to share their data with others that may have the same conditions. This new era in medicine has been shaped by technology breakthroughs such as increasing computer storage capacities and speed, the emergence of the cloud and systems biology generating tons of patient data points. This concept of enabling data and models to be shared by communities as maps of disease built in an open-source manner that includes researchers and physicians around the world will change the style and speed of discovery and development of new therapies. This revolution in medicine will also facilitate clinical trials that need to recruit a very large number of patients. It will be possible by the use of crowd-sourced recruitment bringing several centers and groups together with the use of next generation Electronic Medical Records (Next-Gen EMRs) empowered by social media tools. I truly believe that “P4 medicine”, with patients being more in charge of their own health data, will change the way we approach and treat diseases. That is indeed a medical revolution!