On 30 January 2015, United States President Barack Obama unveiled the Precision Medicine Initative, which aims to revolutionize the treatment of diseases and improve overall health. The National Institutes of Health defines precison medicine as “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment and lifestyle for each person”. This differs from the traditional “one-size-fits-all” approach to medicine, which uses the same treatment methods for most patients.

So what does precision medicine mean for the treatment of cancer patients? With the number of global cancer cases continuing to rise, particularly in less developed countries, could this innovation in the customization of healthcare save the lives of those with this disease?


The use of precision medicine creates many possibilities for medical practitioners; however, its success will depend heavily on the development and sharing of large-scale biological databases, new methods for characterizing patients, and the creation of new computational tools for analysing large databases. This highly individualized approach to saving lives will create massive amounts of data, but with the right infrastructure backing it up, it could vastly improve the lives of cancer patients and those with other diseases.

You can watch live coverage of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions session on Decoding Cancer by using the video player below or following this link on Friday 11 September from 09.00-10.00 CST (GMT+8, EST+12).

Author: Murray Nicol is Digital Project Lead at the World Economic Forum

Image: A radiologist examines the brain X-rays of a patient who underwent a cancer prevention medical check-up at the North Bengal Oncology Center. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri