Driven by the evolution of technology and science, the field of healthcare has seen a wave of medical discoveries across all healthcare disciplines. Gone are the days of patients categorised by a standard diagnosis. An increasing wealth of knowledge has led to the understanding that other factors, including a patient’s personal genetic profile, play a significant role in their response to different treatments. Clinicians are increasingly able to use genetic information to help them pick the best treatment for their patients. But what does this mean for patients? And how will this impact on the delivery of healthcare as we know it?
In 2015, researchers discovered four distinct types of bowel cancer, each with its own set of biological characteristics. A similar revelation was made for prostate cancer, with scientists detecting five types of prostate cancer with diverse genetic signatures. The findings marked a breakthrough for the oncology field, presenting opportunities to treat each type of disease differently, and assist the development of more targeted drugs.
Scientists identified, among the disparities between disease types, that some strands of bowel cancer and prostate cancer are more aggressive than others – potentially allowing doctors to identify patients with the aggressive type and treat them accordingly. Genetic and biological factors are key for determining how disease is detected and what treatment works best. The subdivision of cancer types could ultimately lead to the development of new tests to diagnose patients by their particular form of disease, and allow for the most effective treatment for that type.
But personalized patient treatment is not restricted to oncology. Research in genetics, combined with brain imaging technology, could bring precision medicine to psychiatry. Studies into what genetic changes are linked to psychiatric disorders and how this predicts what treatment a patient needs is ongoing. Clinicians can now watch a patient's brain at work via techniques including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which captures changes in blood flow in the brain and indicates which parts of a patient's brain are active.
With additional research, it is hoped clinicians may be able to look at patients’ genes and results from brain imaging studies, and use this information to predict what treatment will be most effective for individual patients.
Only the future will tell how personalized medicine will evolve in healthcare practice, and what impact this will have on patient outcomes. But with enhanced technology and greater genetic understanding comes the increased ability to tackle medical ailments in a targeted way, suited for the individual patient – the outlook certainly looks promising.
-Jenna Green, Senior Account Executive
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