What has the next Decade in store for the Medical Writer and Translator?
I have a strong feeling that over the next ten years “Personalised” or “Precision” Medicine will become a prominent feature in many areas of medical content.
Genomic testing is becoming more affordable and accessible by the day – you can now analyse your entire genome below £1000 and within 26 hours.
On top of that, artificial intelligence in medicine is getting more and more sophisticated. It should follow logically that the management of many diseases will, therefore, include molecular evaluation of the patient.
What is Personalised Medicine
The concept of Personalised Medicine is based on the principle that we are all unique; that our Health is determined by our genetic code combined with our lifestyles, our age, our unique Microbiome and other environmental factors.
This concept is not new. Molecular testing has been used in cancer treatments for a while now. Depending on the presence or absence of specific tumour genes, the oncologist can stratify the treatment accordingly.
Today, Precision Medicine is no longer the sole domain of oncology. Whether it is utilised in rheumatology, gastroenterology or cardiology, the idea of providing personalised treatment is trending, as it is linked to improved outcomes and less side effect.
What keywords will be prevalent in the 2020s?
- Biological and molecular tests
- Artificial Intelligence
Why is Personalised Medicine suddenly a thing?
With new methods comes new knowledge
In every scientific field, the limits of what can be learned depend on the available tools for observing and measuring the phenomena of interest. So when technological advances take place in methodology, they often lead to revolutionary discoveries. For example, after the microscope was invented, it didn’t take scientists long to discover cells.
Today, with the technological advances in DNA sequencing, it is possible to analyse the entire genome of a person.
And it is precisely this molecular approach that enables doctors to recognise the uniqueness of each pathology associated with a patient.
A further technological advance that is inherently linked to Personalised Medicine comes from the IT sector. In order to deal with the enormous amount of sequencing data, a sophisticated and powerful machine needs to be able to compute this information.
Today, Data mining and Artificial Intelligence are able to process such information in a tick.
How does Personalised Medicine work?
Until now, a personalised approach in healthcare was only possible in limited cases. But with today’s advances in Genomics, the prediction of diseases, treatment and outcome will revolutionise Medicine.
You might have heard of the 100,000 Genomes Project – a visionary program that focuses on sequencing the genome of families with rare diseases and individuals with common cancers, together with detailed clinical and diagnostic data.
This database can be utilised to gain information about how an individual patient responds to therapy.
By comparing the findings of patient A (i.e. genome and clinical presentation) with data from others, patterns can be identified. These patterns can be useful in providing patient A with a tailor-made therapy, rather than the box standard treatment.
Currently, critical pharmaceutical interventions are effective in only 30-60% of patients due to differences in the way an individual responds to and metabolises medicines.
Not only treatment can be personalised but also the prevention of disease.
What impact will Personalised Medicine have on Medical Content?
The life sciences industry involved in genomics will see an increase in activity.
More and more pathogenic variants will be discovered, leading to new treatments, devices and diagnostics. As a result, translations of clinical trials, patenting, user manuals and marketing concerning Personalised Medicine should keep us busy over the next decade.
Governments, Healthcare provider and industry, will get involved in promoting public awareness to gain support for genomic medicine.
In which areas will Personalised Medicine feature?
Using genomic technologies and other diagnostics people most at risk can be identified even before the onset of their symptoms. Consequently, prevention and early diagnosis will enable better patient outcomes.
Having some collateral information from a genomic database will reduce the number of unnecessary investigations and lead to a more precise (and quick) diagnosis.
Knowledge of the genetic variants responsible for individual drug response can be used to create an individual’s ‘pharmacogenomic’ profile, identifying optimal treatment with the lease side effects.
A few words about the Microbiome
Another topic that will continue to keep authors of medical literature busy is the Human Microbiome. It is likely that it will be at the forefront of several pathogenetic discoveries as well as the development of treatments.
What is the Microbiome?
It is the collective of all foreign microorganisms living on and in our bodies such as the inside of our gut or the surface of our skin. If you prefer a more scientific description, it is the collective genome of all microorganisms that inhabit our body. Just imagine, for every human cell, we host ten microorganisms.
You might have come across it in headlines like:
- Gut bugs help prevent allergies
- Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut
- Gut bacteria boost cancer therapy
The physiological and pathophysiological function of the microorganisms living with us has long been neglected and if you are a keen reader of medical journals, you will have noticed the huge amount of research that is currently happening in the field of Microbiota.
Read this article from Science News:
Similar to the paragraph above, the Microbiome is unique to every person and consequently interacts differently with each one of us. If its impact on risk and treatment of disease will be demonstrated in the future, this impact will logically be different for every patient. As a result, interventions and treatment linked to Microbiota must have a Personalised character.
What about Personalised Care?
Not everybody thinks “Genomics” when they hear the terms Personalised Medicine. When talking about tailor-made treatment, many people channel “Holistic” healthcare.
I have no doubt that the advances in Personalised Medicine will come hand in hand with a “Whole Person” approach. As a result, the management of chronic diseases will also continue to dominate a large domain of medical content over the next decade.
Will Medical Content itself become Personalised?
Effects on doctor-patient communication:
When a patient learns about his or her disposition with regards to a particular disease, he or she needs to assume new responsibilities. It is therefore not surprising that one of the keywords that kept on popping up during my exploration of Personalised Medicine was “patient participation”.
I believe that patient-facing content will, therefore, continue to become more personal while focusing on individual strategies and support.
How can the Medical Translator prepare for this content?
I am sure that specialising in translations for Genomics and Pharmacogenetics will be of great advantage for the Medical Translator.
If the content needs localising to the UK and the NHS, I would suggest reading the following publications to get a broad picture of how Personalised Medicine will be integrated into the healthcare system.
Plus, I compiled a Glossary for Genomic Terms adapted from the Journal of the American Medical Association, which you can download here.