Giving healthcare a personal touch
As individuals, we’re all different. So, it’s no surprise that our bodies can also react differently to medical treatments and therapies. We caught up with Lisa Benincosa, our Head of Translational Medicine, to explore the benefits of Precision Medicine and how its early testing approach is tailoring patient therapies to increase efficiency and effectiveness…
Lisa, what is Translational Medicine, and how is it connected to the field of Precision Medicine?
Translational Medicine works at the interface between basic science and clinical medicine, making sure that actionable laboratory findings about disease biology and new treatments are transferred into the clinic. On the other hand, it also ensures that actionable hypotheses derived from clinical data are transferred back to the laboratory – enabling optimization of patient selection criteria and enhancement of the benefit-risk ratio at the individual patient level.
In what way does Precision Medicine differ from more traditional patient treatment approaches?
Traditionally, medical treatments have been disease specific, resulting in a sort of “one-size-fits-all” approach. A better understanding of the impact of individual genetic drivers and environmental factors on the development and outcome of each disease has shifted the focus to the patient-specific characteristics of the disease. The goal of Precision Medicine is to develop biomarker-driven, patient-tailored treatments, offering the best chances of therapeutic efficacy with reduced toxicity.
In what fields is Precision Medicine currently being applied and how is it influencing patients’ quality of life?
The field of Oncology is currently at the forefront of the Precision Medicine revolution. The approval of a growing number of novel therapies, specifically targeting genetic drivers of tumor development, has facilitated a dramatic increase in the life expectancy of cancer patients. Furthermore, the better safety profile of targeted therapies (in comparison to chemotherapy) has significantly improved their quality of life.
With its efficient and more sustainable approach, what influence will Precision Medicine have on healthcare, society, or even the environment?
Personalizing therapies on the basis of biomarkers, predictive of clinical activity and safety, should increase the treatment success rate and reduce the costs, due to treatment of patients not likely to respond or more susceptible to toxicity. The implementation of high-throughput and cost-effective molecular diagnostics should enable a decrease in the costs of biomarker testing. Overall, the advantages of Precision Medicine should greatly outweigh the disadvantages.
… can decrease therapy failure rates and lighten the financial burden on health systems.
… can be more effective in selected cancer patients and thereby improve and prolong clinical responses.
… can reduce demand for excess medication, meaning less medical residue enters water treatment cycles and the environment.
Precision Medicine can help decrease the mortality rate attributed to cancer. Is it also effective for other diseases or afflictions?
The achievements obtained through Precision Medicine in Oncology have promoted very active genetic and biomarker research in other fields – including Infectious, Metabolic, and Autoimmune Diseases. Therefore, it’s probably not too daring to predict that it’s only a matter of time until these disciplines will see a more widespread implementation of personalized therapies.
In your opinion, how far along is Precision Medicine e.g. what’s on the horizon and what strides do you expect to be made in the coming years?
In the field of Oncology, I can see three major scientific and technical challenges: First, to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of resistance which enable tumors to escape treatment; second, to develop rational combination regimens, which may help to prevent and overcome tumor resistance; finally, to reduce the costs of drugs and biomarker testing, to enable all patients to have access to the best therapies available.
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