Topic outline

Introduction

In this lesson, you will learn about the principals of translational medicine, the relationship between animal and human pharmacology, molecular biology and physiology. Additionally, you will discover the concepts of 'biomarkers' and 'personalised medicine'. Make sure you expand all of the sections to go through the lessons for each category. Happy learning!


Translational Medicine

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Translational medicine (also referred to as translational science) is a discipline within biomedical and public health research that aims to improve the health of individuals and the community by ’translating’ findings into diagnostic tools, medicines, medical devices, procedures, policies and education. Translational medicine is a rapidly growing discipline in biomedical research and aims to expedite the discovery of new diagnostic tools and treatments by using a multi-disciplinary, highly collaborative approach.

Often described as the practice of transferring scientific knowledge ‘from bench to bedside’ (B2B), translational medicine builds on basic research advances - studies of biological processes using cell cultures, for example, or animal models - and uses them to develop new therapies or medical procedures.

Biomarkers

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Before beginning with this topic, you are asked to watch these short videos.

What is a biomarker?


Adapted from a video by Centre for Advanced Discovery and Experimental Therapeutics.

How is biomarker research used to improve cancer treatment?

Adapted from a video by Cancer Research UK.

Personalised Medicine

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The European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) defines personalised medicine as ‘a targeted approach to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease based on an individual’s specific profile’.

Anyone new to this area should be aware that quite often the terms ‘personalised medicine’ and ‘stratified medicine’ are confused and used as if they mean the same thing. This is discussed again in lesson 3 (Stratification versus Personalised) of this topic.

However, the two closely related concepts are important in this area, ‘stratified medicine’ and ‘personalised medicine. The two concepts are outlined and discussed below:

  • Stratified medicine is the use of a medicine that is targeted at a patient sub-population (a group or a proportion of patients, e.g., identification of patient subpopulations impacted by a particular disease based on age and disease stage), instead of using one medicine to treat all patients with the disease. Sometimes a ‘companion diagnostic’ is needed – this is a test that comes with the medicine. It is used to tell if the medicine is suitable for the patient, or what dose should be used. The pharmaceutical industry is using this approach more and more in the development of new medicines.

  • Personalised medicine, on the other hand, aims to use targeted medicines and to take into account other information about the individual. This is in order to tailor the treatment and management to the particular situation of each patient. It is used to ensure the best outcome and reduce the risk of side effects. The other information that is used might be clinical, environmental and/or lifestyle information.

Both stratified and personalised medicine can also identify people at risk of developing diseases in the future. The best preventive action can then be chosen to reduce the risk. Some examples are:

  • Changes to diet and exercise -  to reduce risk of heart disease.
    • Surgery - for people at high risk of breast cancer. 

Assessment

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References