Personalised medicine – an essential revolution
9 April 2018
What is personalised medicine, why is it crucial in helping to achieve the urgently needed transformation in health and care, and what does this mean for the people of Leeds and the UK?
Stephanie Roberts explains.
Around the world, health and care systems are facing huge challenges. People are living longer, but not necessarily healthier, lives. Most of us are well aware that there is an urgent need to transform our approaches to treating disease, preventing ill health and maintaining wellbeing.
Personalised medicine is a core part of this transformation and could spark an exciting and much needed revolution in health and care.
Over the last 20 years our understanding of health and disease has advanced dramatically. This has been enabled through scientific developments in new technologies such as:
- diagnostic tests – enabling a better understanding of the biological pathways driving a person’s health and disease.
- medical imaging – enhancing our ability to look into the body and “see” disease processes and response to treatment.
- digital and information technology – allowing improved collection, storage, analysis and communication of patient health information, whilst also enhancing opportunities to help people better care for themselves outside of hospital settings.
- biotechnology – enabling more specific targeting of the causes of disease with better results.
Bringing together these technologies within the NHS provides an opportunity to transform health and care on an unprecedented scale.
In turn, these approaches will help us to move away from a “one size fits all” approach to health and the care of populations with a particular condition, to one which uses advances in technology, information and evidence to more precisely maintain an individual’s health or manage their disease. That, put simply, is personalised medicine.
The Leeds Academic Health Partnership has established the Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health (LCPMH) which is applying this precise, personalised approach in a number of areas.
Personalised medicine has the potential to revolutionise people’s health, clinical outcomes and the efficiency of care by:
- predicting the onset of illness before symptoms arise
- enabling earlier and correct diagnosis
- tailoring prevention strategies to a person’s risk of developing a disease
- optimising a person’s treatment around what is most likely to work best for them
- monitoring people’s health and responding quickly to changes.
These benefits are relevant across all health and care pathways, from disease prevention through to palliative care, and are recognised by NHS England’s ambition for the UK to become “the first health service in the world to truly embrace personalised medicine”.
But personalised medicine and health is not without its challenges. Health and care systems can be slow to adopt these approaches into routine practice for a variety of reasons, including having insufficient:
- citizen involvement and engagement
- evidence of effectiveness and value
- awareness and education
- organisational infrastructure and information management.
Because the LCPMH is part of the Leeds Academic Health Partnership – one of the largest of its kind in the UK – it benefits from the partnership’s comprehensive collaboration across health and care, academia and industry, strengthening its position to tackle these challenges.
The LCPMH aims to:
- bring together citizens and healthcare professionals with innovators and academic experts in data processing, the science of measurement, health economics, clinical trials and psychology
- accelerate the development and widespread adoption of personalised medicine and health innovations
- transform services across the whole health and care system in Leeds whilst also attracting inward investment and producing world-class research.
So what could this mean for people living in Leeds?
Here are two examples of projects that the LCPMH is currently progressing:
Type 2 diabetes – The LCPMH recently announced a new partnership with US biotech company SomaLogic. This will evaluate the benefits of a diagnostic blood test which can help predict whether someone is likely to develop type 2 diabetes, paving the way for a personalised approach to this for Leeds people.
Prostate cancer – The LCPMH is also working with Myriad Genetics to evaluate the use of the Prolaris® prostate cancer test which, unlike current diagnostic methods, will determine the rate of the disease’s growth. This would allow a more informed discussion between the patient and their doctor when deciding which treatment option is best for them.
The LCPMH has many more projects in development. However, the success of each depends on maintaining and growing a sophisticated combination of cutting-edge scientific expertise, industrial innovation and vision, and the strong culture of collaboration in Leeds.
Stephanie Roberts is Manager of the Leeds Centre for Personalised Medicine and Health, part of Leeds Academic Health Partnership.
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