What is “Personalized Medicine”? What do all the terms used in this context mean, what is the scientific background, where are ethical problems, and who are the stake-holders? I will try to explain all that in this blog independent of the level of prior knowledge of the readers. Nevertheless, I will dive into the scientific background where necessary.
Personalized Medicine is one of the buzz words that gained traction since the publication of the first draft of the human genome sequence in 2000. It is frequently cited to answer questions about the benefits of the billion dollar project. However, it is used in quite distinct or even contradictory ways, starting from the “ultimate weapon” to overcome all kinds of cancer - one of the modern plagues of mankind - to denouncing it as a “niche” medicine, all the way to painting it as the ultimate cost driver rendering our health care system unmanageable in financial terms.
Most certainly, personalized medicine will affect all of us sometime, either personally or in the family. The implementation for patients will not be achieved by individual MDs, or pharma companies, or health care providers. Essentially all levels of society should and need to be involved at various degrees of intensity.
There is already a very lively discussion of this topic in many committees and circles. However, usually all of these discussions are dominated by individual stake holders. Often there is little agreement about key terms let alone key facts in personalized medicine.
Getting a few key definitions straight is a prerequisite for any discussion among people with diverse backgrounds. Equally important is putting things at least into a cursory context. This requires knowledge of some crude basics of the scientific and biomedical background underlying these terms. Highlighting important ethical and judicial aspects is another important part of that.
Many of the terms already used were refined over time and many more will follow that path. I do not expect everybody to agree with all aspects I am describing. Therefore, I choose to publish this as a publicly accessible, interactive blog and hope for broad participation. It is only in the context of a feedback discussion that this blog can develop into more than just my personal opinion. This might in the end result more in a Wiki-like structure where I would be the editor rather than the sole author. Of course, this depends entirely on the amount and quality of feedback this blog will illicit - or not.
I would like to see this blog contributing to prevent a “post-factual“ discussion style in personalized medicine. Especially when it comes to patients and saving lives, there is no room for emotionally biased prejudice or intentional misinformation. I am optimistic enough to believe that our discussion is driven by reason and facts and I hope this blog will contribute to keeping things in this realm.
Leveraging knowledge and Information - this is the title of our talk series where experts inform about their special topics. This blog shall augment this talk series with some basics and the same aim.
At the end a few editorial remarks:
Separation of general and scientific information - I will divide many topics of this blog into several entries. The first of each series will always contain a general description and all scientific details will follow in the second and further entries. I hope that this will help a broad spectrum of readers to benefit from this blog and encourage contributions on a wide scale.
Artwork - This blog will contain illustrations created by me. I reserve the copyright for all the artwork, but explicitly grant everybody the license to copy and reuse the artwork for their own purposes (e.g. teaching) provided it is not edited and especially the copyright notice is preserved and will be passed on with the artwork.
Infos and guest entries - I will incorporate infos and suggestions to this blog as far as possible. I will also publish guest entries under the author’s name (max 2 DIN A pages) provided they fit the concept and level of complexity of this blog.
What’s coming up next?
Next week the second part of the introduction will be published and will be about the content and structure of this blog.