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Future healthcare: It´s all about functionality

Future Healthcare and personalized medicine in the medical equipment technology industry

Overview

Future Healthcare depends upon functionality. Treatment of diseases has changed considerably in the past few decades, moving from a “one size fits all” perspective to what’s known as personalized medicine (“Personalized Medicine” or “PM”). Under PM, physicians use a patient’s individual genetic traits as the base upon which they create a tailored approach to identifying and treating disease. This has a direct impact on medical equipment technology.

In this paper, we briefly discuss how Personalized Medicine (PM) has evolved over the years and highlight four common imaging technologies that can significantly enhance PM’s value proposition. We also explore an example of how digital imaging technologies could be used in the future of healthcare to improve the initial identification and subsequent treatment of one of the most common and deadly diseases, colorectal cancer, and review how physicians can achieve early diagnosis by combining current state-of-the-art functional imaging trends with novel molecular tracers that only tag specific cancer cells. We conclude with a brief discussion of the implications for medical equipment technology manufacturers and the role they can play in enhancing the results PM delivers.

Background

A generally accepted definition of Personalized Medicine (PM) refers to all products and services that leverage the science of omics-data to improve therapy decisions and provide the right treatment for the right person at the right time. This value proposition of PM is currently fulfilled by the fields of pharmacogenomics, in vitro diagnostics. Combining that with functional imaging capabilities results in a full set of patient information that can be used to describe the patient´s genotype (omics data and pharmacogenomics) as well as the phenotype (diagnostic imaging) at the same time.

  • Pharmacogenomics helps to evaluate targeted drugs for small patient populations, ideally resulting in higher efficacy (better response rates) and safety (reduced adverse reactions) based on the specific characteristics of individual patients’ genetic background.

  • In vitro diagnostics helps identify the genetic background of the patient to determine which drug treatment promises the best therapeutic results while minimizing adverse reactions.

  • Diagnostic Imaging is playing an increasingly critical role in PM. Technologies such as ultrasound (“Ultrasound”), magnetic resonance tomography (“MRT”), computed tomography (“Computed Tomography” or “CT”) and positron emission tomography (“PET”) or single positron emission tomography (“SPECT”) enable physicians to not only more effectively diagnose serious diseases much earlier, but also to illuminate a more efficacious treatment path that minimizes adverse side effects.

Four Key Imaging Modalities and best-known diagnostic imaging modalities are ultrasound, computed tomography (“CT”), magnetic resonance imaging (“MRI”) and nuclear medicine techniques such as positron emission tomography (PET) and single positron emission tomography (SPECT). These techniques differ in temporal and spatial resolution, field of view, sensitivity of the imaging system, and depth of biological process, as well as the availability of suitable tracer molecules.

Key Findings

In the healthcare industry imaging modalities are mainly used for tumor detection and characterization such as defining the tumor volume and shape. Nevertheless, the given imaging information is still an important contributor to determining the appropriate treatment path. Consequently, “omics” data also has to be considered as the alteration of certain genes indicates the usage of specific therapy methods, as you will see from examples in this paper. The “omics” aspect is where cancer treatment will be personalized in the future.

Molecular imaging adds significant value to diagnostic methods based on in vitro examinations. Through the case study on colorectal cancer, we have shown how diagnostic imaging plays an important role in not only diagnosis, but also throughout all Personalized Medicine (PM) patient treatment phases.

A clear imaging trend can be identified toward functionality. While the resolution of medical images today seems sufficient for the day-to-day work in hospitals, functional imaging becomes increasingly important when dealing with more complex diseases such as cancer. Tagging specific types of cells will be the key discipline of the future in this scientific field.

In pre-clinical research, diagnostic imaging also plays an important role in the exploration of cellular networks and pathways of diseases, and helps determine which molecules are the most promising targets for potential drug treatment.

Recommendations

The field of Personalized Medicine (PM) provides significant market opportunities for medical equipment technology manufacturers. To tap these opportunities, medical equipment manufacturers should take a leading role in fostering collaboration among all the various players participating in PM. Molecular imaging has the potential to provide detection of abnormal cells at an very early stage on the one hand and enhance our understanding of disease and drug activity during preclinical and clinical drug development on the other hand. This could help pharmaceutical companies determine which new-drug candidates seem most likely to be successful and halt the development of drugs that seem likely to ultimately fail.