Cures for rare disease and 3D-printed personalized medications offer some of the top precision medicine technologies of 2021
As we begin 2022, hospital leaders should be aware of how far precision medicine has come over the past year. Multiple advances in precision medicine have resulted in treatments that can be highly personalized. From personalized 3D printed medications to gene-adjusted radiation dosing, here are five advances that significantly improved hospitals’ ability to provide personalized care and improve patient outcomes in 2021.
3D Printed Personalized Medications
Procter and Gamble (P&G) announced in March 2021 that its researchers had developed and proven the concept for 3D printed individualized medications. While the research is introductory, it could enable customized pills that contain all the medications that an individual takes.
“Once a patient is diagnosed with a certain condition, a specific treatment method is chosen,” the researchers wrote in “Customizable Drug Tablets with Constant Release Profiles Via 3D Printing Technology,” published in International Journal of Pharmaceutics. “This can be done by fabricating a personalized tablet for the individual: the personalization includes a customized dosage and duration of drug release that can be catered to the patient’s needs,” the P&G researchers added.
3D Bioprinted Personalized Tumors
Another important advancement in precision medicine also leveraged 3D printing, but for a different application. Researchers from the Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv, Israel, used 3D bioprinting to create a 3D model of a patient’s brain tumor using cells from the patient’s actual tumor. The Sackler scientists published their findings in Science Advances.
Precision Medicine Institute (PMI) covered this breakthrough in “Israeli Researchers Use 3D Bio-Printing to Determine Best Precision Medicine Cancer Treatments.”
This 3D tumor culture provided a close replica of the patient’s tumor, which could be safely manipulated in a lab environment. It allowed multiple potential treatments to be tested that would not be safe or feasible to trial on the patient. This breakthrough opened the possibility for other similar personalized treatments for individual-specific tumors.
Gene-Adjusted Cancer Radiation
Personalized treatments did not advance only in the area of medications. Cleveland Clinic, in collaboration with other research groups, found that radiation dosages were more effective and safer when adjusted based on a patient’s unique genetic makeup, a Cleveland Clinic news release noted.
PMI covered this advancement in “Hospitals Could Provide Safer, More Effective Cancer Radiation Treatments by Adjusting Them to Patients’ Genetics.”
By tailoring the treatment to each patient, the amount of radiation could be reduced to the minimum amount needed to be therapeutic, while also ensuring it would be strong enough to be effective. This reduced unnecessary radiation exposure while minimizing the risk that the patient would not get enough radiation to fully treat the tumor.
The Cleveland Clinic scientists published their research in The Lancet Oncology.
Age-Specific Genetic Cancer Treatments
Mount Sinai researchers announced new precision medicine research showing that cancer genetics vary extensively based on a patient’s age. This research not only found the need for variations in treatments based on age, but also challenged the existing concepts of how precision medicine cancer research is performed.
Age has previously not been a factor that most cancer-related precision medicine studies took into consideration. Older populations have been disproportionately overstudied in comparison to their younger counterparts. The research out of Mount Sinai has identified the importance of considering a patient’s age when applying precision medicine testing and treatment in the field of oncology.
Rare Disease Treatments
One amazing potential of precision medicine technology is the ability to treat rare diseases. In 2021, at least two rare diseases that were considered incurable now have potential treatments for certain variants of the diseases because of precision medicine.
The first is a genetic variant of severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a rare genetic disorder affecting children’s immune systems. This condition is often fatal in the first two years of life. By genetically modifying blood-forming stem cells, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers were able to cure 48 out of 50 children enrolled in the study, a UCLA news release noted.
PMI covered this discovery in “Precision Medicine Treatment Used to Cure 95% of Children with Previously Incurable, Deadly Immune Disease.”
Another rare condition that has benefited from precision medicine advances is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. This disease slowly destroys motor neurons, gradually causing complete paralysis that results in death.
Researchers from UMass Chan Medical School have developed a method of suppressing the translation of a gene that commonly plays a role in the development of ALS.
While this precision medicine treatment was initially only tested in one patient, it completely stopped the progression of ALS for more than a year, a period that normally would be the remaining lifespan of a patient diagnosed with ALS.
The UMass scientists published their research in Nature Medicine.
Improving Patient Outcomes Through Precision Medicine
As more precision medicine applications enter the healthcare market, innovative hospital leaders will greatly benefit from understanding and closely monitoring these new developments. And by implementing precision medicine programs, hospitals can provide the most efficient and effective care and improve patient outcomes.