Our healthcare system has come a long way over the past decade. Targeted vaccine breakthroughs and ongoing improvements in cancer treatment have transformed our ability to survive and recover from health issues that once seemed insurmountable. Meanwhile, we are gaining a better understanding of the uniqueness of individual peoples’ medical profiles and the variations between specific forms of diseases. Precision medicine (PM), as a core methodology for treatment, is able to synthesize complex, comprehensive data and ongoing testing to deliver improved care. As unique individuals who live in diverse bacterial, viral and environmental ecosystems, we all experience disease differently, and precision medicine is making this easier to quantify in a medical setting.

Translational Research (TR), also known as translational medicine, has grown enormously of recent. As a field that has generally required clarification, TR increasingly serves as an interdisciplinary nexus, bringing medical innovations from the laboratory bench to the clinical bedside and then back to the lab for further improvement. The field comprehensively mediates several approaches in realizing a more intelligent targeting of therapeutic treatments, and inclusively facilitates focused research methods to push care forward.

A crucial driver in TR is Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM). EBM seeks to bring the best treatment to a patient based on evidence, as opposed to theory or speculation. This spurs a safer and more efficient allocation of medical and financial resources to treating patients while decreasing reliance on wishful thinking. With EBM, an area of uncertainty is translated into an answerable question, and a study is designed after critical questioning. The study gathers best-available evidence, and is then put through a validation process. The results are applied in a clinical setting and the overall research design is evaluated for its efficacy. EBM is unique in that it tests human populations directly and includes several different levels of study, from etiology to diagnosis and treatment to prognosis. Results are regarded as clinical evidence for future treatment, enhancing the accuracy of future studies, while old and outdated research is replaced.

The use of EBM has greatly facilitated the rise of precision medicine as a cutting-edge step in the personalization of medical care. While PM does not provide ‘a bespoke pill for every patient,’ it does tailor treatment to specific sub-groups that have been differentiated by EBM studies. Sub-group development is based on biomarkers and diverse patient population data. An example of PM’s success is in the improvement of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treatment accuracy. Formerly, NSCLC was simply classified into three types, only one of which was eligible for chemotherapy. Sadly, the five-year survival rate of this illness was less than 10% with this method. Developments in PM reveal specific cancer-driving factors and biomarkers that allow practitioners to divide patients into more accurate sub-populations. More accurate diagnoses complement the improved regulation of therapeutic regimens, based on ongoing feedback from evidence-producing biomarkers. This has enhanced the five-year survival rate to 60% when utilizing precision classification and the relevant dynamic treatment.

One company guiding the development of precision medical treatments for cancer is the Boston Area’s Foundation Medicine. Now owned by Roche, Foundation Medicine develops, manufactures and sells genomic profiling based on next-generation sequencing technology for blood and tumors. It provides insights specific to a cancer patient’s genes, and then recommends them to known targeted therapies and clinical trials based on their genomic results. The company partners with pharmaceutical developers to inform a precision-medicine approach. To further the bench-bedside-bench flow, the company also facilitates a network physicians, biopharma, researchers, patient-advocacy organizations and medical centers. Further collaboration drives improved identification and treatment of cancer. It is hopeful to look at such a company’s work in evaluating cancer treatment and survival prospects as we move into the future.

As a world of complex individuals, we must appreciate the diversity of disease and its uniqueness to each of us. Companies are springing into action to harness the power of precision medicine, which reminds us that providing better care is of universal interest. Translational research methods enable precision medicine to provide targeted care, helping us conquer a world of dangerous diseases. By communicating information and translating it across fields, better-informed medical decisions become possible. Comprehensive genomic testing can be expanded globally to involve a greater number of clinical experiments and specific sub-populations. The necessity of translating information across fields and across borders remains crucial to informing cutting-edge medical research. Embracing precision medicine will open further avenues of medical communication and foster the development of new treatments, ultimately saving lives.

  •   Dr. Hope

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