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 more about Precision Medicine and how early testing approaches may help doctors tailor treatment options for their patients.

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, allowing actionable laboratory findings about disease biology and potential treatments to be transferred into the clinic. It also ensures that actionable hypotheses derived from clinical data are transferred back to the laboratory – enabling the identification of potentially efficacious targeted therapies as well as avoidance of therapies unlikely to provide clinical benefit at the individual patient level.

In what way does Precision Medicine differ from more traditional patient treatment approaches?

Tradiotionally, 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 that could potentially work best for them.

What Do You Think...

What percentage of conventional drugs are ineffective for the majority of all cancer patients?

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 medicine revolution. A growing number of novel therapies have been approved to target molecules and/or signaling pathways, which are tumor-specific and drive tumor developments and progression.
The major challenge is to prevent or counteract the emergence of molecular mechanisms of resistance, which render the treatment ineffective and result in tumors coming back.
Targeted therapies are designed to interact with molecules or pathways which are more specific to certain cells.

What influence will Precision Medicine have on healthcare and society?

Personalizing therapies based on an individuals biomarker fingerprint may help better identify potential targeted therapy options for that patient. Additionally, the cost effectiveness of targeted therapies remains unclear, probably because it has been measured with traditional health economics assessments and a paradigm shift from cost effectiveness to value may be necessary. To this end, key factors are the prevalence of biological target in cancer patients, the cost of patient screening test(s) and companion treatment(s). Overall, the combined efforts of all stakeholders to reduce the costs of molecular diagnostic tests, and better define the responsive patient population, should promote the availability of Precision Medicine treatments of high benefit for patients amd high value for healthcare and society.

Is Precision Medicine 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 it to predict that it's only a matter of time until these diciplines 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 better understanding of the mechanisms of resistance which enable tumors to escape treatment; second, to develop rational combination regimes, 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.

US-NONO-00134 (July 2021)

Precision Medicine…

… can decrease therapy failure rates and lighten the financial burden on health systems.

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