Impact of Precision Medicine on Health Care

November 5, 2015 Brigham and Women's Hospital

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Identifying the most important mutations in cancer cells can help to develop targeted therapies.

The goal of precision medicine is to gather, analyze, and synthesize information about a person’s genes, proteins, microbes, environment, and health and combine this with data from the medical literature, clinical trials, and population health studies, to predict, prevent, and treat diseases for individual patients and populations of patients.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are applying precision medicine concepts to three areas to improve patient care.

  • Cancer: Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) has been a leader in research to systematically test large numbers of mutations and identify the genetic culprits in cancer cells. This genetic information can help determine the best way to care for cancer patients by using targeted therapies to attack tumor cells with specific abnormalities.
  • Pulmonary Medicine: BWH researchers are combining genomic data, metabolomic data (measurement and analysis of substances such as sugars and fats), imaging data, and the results of pulmonary function tests to identify distinct groups of patients with interstitial fibrosis and cystic lung disease. Researchers hope to develop treatments tailored to these patient groups.
  • Gastroenterology: The human microbiome is the population of microorganisms that live on and within the human body. Patients who are hospitalized may develop infections due to disruptions in their microbiome. One of the most common causes of hospital-acquired infections is due to the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), which causes severe diarrhea. Based on the components of a patient’s microbiome, BWH researchers are studying how to use precision medicine to predict which patients may be at risk for developing C.difficile infections and how to prevent the infections.

In this video, Dr. Jeffrey Golden, Chair of the Department of Pathology, discusses precision medicine initiatives at BWH.

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– Jamie R.

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