On March 8th 2017, the symposium, Accelerating Access to Personalised Medicine – a joint endeavour between CASMI, NIHR University College London Hospital Biomedical Research Centre, the Healthcare Values Partnership, and the UCL Personalised Medicines domain – was held at University College London. The main aims for this joint venture were to provide a platform for authoritative knowledge exchange between clinician scientists, academics, and policy makers on the key challenges faced with respects to the development and application of new therapies and preventative strategies around personalised medicine.
The day was chaired by Sir John Tooke who set personalised medicine within the context of recent Department of Health proposals to accelerate and sustain patient access to genuinely innovative technologies. Three key areas of personalised medicine were tackled – neurodegenerative diseases, cellular and gene therapies, and precision imaging. Within these areas key common themes highlighted included; public and societal perceptions, ethical challenges, and the technological and economic challenges of diagnosis and treatment.
Presentations by several speakers and lively discussions by the attendees on the day, emphasised the importance of clarity needed on the definition of precision and personalised medicine. Understanding of personalised medicine still ranges from using the patient’s own material, through to just greater precision in medicine application. The participants went onto explore some examples of how personalised medicine can improve the treatment of disease, particularly neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, cell and gene therapies for oncology, and the benefits of precision imaging and what that means for diagnoses and preventative medicine.
The economics of applying precision medicine require careful consideration. How do you accurately value a ‘cure’ or prevention? Current mechanisms used to assess the ‘value’ (or cost effectiveness) of a medicine to both the NHS, the individual, and society do not currently account for the truly innovative treatments that may have very high costs, be single treatments, or have clinical outcomes that are several years in the future.
The behavioural science of medicine is also currently less developed than the biological science. That includes such themes as those patients that are not identified to be suitable to a particular treatment (i.e. the ‘B patient’), and how to incentivize patients to adhere to treatments when clinical outcomes may be several years away.
And finally speakers and participants discussed the concerns that academic metrics still do not support researchers to translate work from research into genuine patient benefit. Research takes years while often only producing paper outputs. What more could be done to incentivise and support genuine translational work so that healthcare systems and patients reap greater rewards?
The rich discussions and outputs form this symposium will form the basis for a 3rd symposium in this series where concrete recommendations can be formed to gain traction from key policy bodies and funders. Personalised medicine is happening, with the rate of discovery and knowledge gain increasing exponentially. Being ahead of the curve and understanding how to optimize its use within healthcare systems can provide an important step forward in improved diagnosis and treatment for patients.
For further commentary on the day’s events, from the co-facilitators BRC, click here.