One of the overarching goals of medicine is to find a treatment that works for your patient. Prescribing a certain medication to a patient only to have them back in your office again weeks or months later is disappointing to both of you, as the goal is always to treat the condition promptly. Unfortunately, not all patients respond to medications the same way, and physicians often have to rely on a trial-and-error approach to find the best individual solution.
Recently, however, molecular pathology has emerged as an advanced method for helping you determine which medications your patients will respond to best. Molecular pathology is the foundation of personalized medicine, according to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center — an approach that aims to tailor the healthcare process to each individual patient from diagnosis to treatment. It utilizes key physiological characteristics to promote earlier intervention, personalized treatment plans, and improved diagnoses.
Molecular pathology studies diseases at the molecular level, including those found in tissue, organs, and bodily fluids. Samples are taken from patients with the goal of analyzing DNA and determining susceptibility to disease, as well as how patients will metabolize certain drugs. Here’s a closer look at how molecular pathology is laying the foundation for improved patient outcomes across many aspects of medicine.
Optimizing Treatment Decisions
Through a simple cheek swab, laboratories can study a patient’s genetic makeup (genotype), which influences the body’s response to drugs. The field, known as pharmacogenomics, empowers physicians to identify the best possible treatment for a patient right away. As a result, they can prevent or minimize unpleasant side effects and reduce the window of time that goes by without symptom improvement or healing. This approach also allows you to determine the best dosage for each individual.
While advancements are constantly underway in the field of pharmacogenomics, here are a few examples of medication decisions that can be influenced with the help of molecular pathology:
- Anti-cancer medications
- Cardiovascular medications
- Diabetes medications
- Immunology and urology medications
- Infectious disease medications
- Pain medications
- Psychotropic medications
Testing for Diseases
In addition to helping you understand how your patient may respond to medication, molecular pathology is also leading the way for helping doctors assess disease risk. This can help to guide screening and other preventive measures. For instance, testing women for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations linked to breast cancer could prompt a more aggressive screening regimen.
Molecular pathology is available not only to adults, but also embryos prior to implantation during the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, as well as for babies during pregnancy. Testing can be used to identify risks for developing certain types of cancers that could be hereditary, as well as other inherited diseases such as sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis.
In addition, molecular pathology allows practitioners to search for the DNA found in infectious organisms, which can help officials track outbreaks and inform public health decisions.
Finally, molecular pathology is helping physicians treat cancer more precisely by enabling the testing of tumors to identify their molecular profiles. Molecular scientists can study the genetic properties of the tumor to determine the most appropriate treatment methods for each patient’s specific circumstances.
If you’re seeking to advance your practice with personalized medicine, partner with LifeBrite Labs for all of your pharmacogenomic testing needs. We are committed to quality diagnostics, and have even been commended for it. Find out more about the panel options available here or contact us online.