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‘Prevention is the key’, EAPM healthcare Congress told

30 Nov 2017

On day three of the inaugural EAPM (European Alliance for Personalised Medicine) Congress in Belfast, the key speakers got to grips with precision medicine.

Defined as a medical model that proposes the customisation of health care, with medical decisions, practices, or products being tailored to the individual patient, precision medicine is often employed for selecting appropriate and optimal therapies based on the context of a patient’s genetic content or other molecular or cellular analysis.

Tools employed in precision medicine can include molecular diagnostics, imaging, and analytics.  

James N'Dow, chairman of the Guidelines Office Board at the European Association of Urology in the Netherlands, was clear about what he felt needed to be done.

"We have more than enough data in the medical world, but we don't share enough of this data. We must align stakeholders' interests with our common goal, namely the very best health care that can be provided,” he said.

Mary Baker, a former president of the UK's European Brain Council, said “We need to look at the broader needs of society. A more sustainable approach is to look at prevention. We need to start concentrating seriously on prevention, where pharma has a huge role to play and has had great success with vaccination programmes.”

The four-day Congress, entitled ‘Personalising Your Health: A Global Imperative’ is being held in the capital of Northern Ireland under the auspices of the Estonian Presidency of the EU and in association with Queen’s University Belfast and Visit Belfast.

This is the first ever pan-European, multidisciplinary Congress specific to the fast-moving field of personalised medicine.

The event at the Belfast Waterfront venue will provide the biggest ‘space’ to date to allow for such a meeting of minds and expertise.

It represents a one-stop-shop for top-level discussion and the formulation of real action plans.
EAPM brings together extensive scientific, clinical, caring and training expertise in personalised medicine and diagnostics.  

Personalised or precision medicine allows doctors and researchers to predict more accurately which treatment and prevention strategies for a particular disease will work in which groups of people.

It is in contrast to a one-size-fits-all approach, in which disease treatment and prevention strategies are developed for the average person, with less consideration for the differences between individuals.  

Although the term 'precision medicine' is relatively new, the concept has been a part of health care for many years.

For example, a person who needs a blood transfusion is not given blood from a randomly selected donor; instead, the donor’s blood type is matched to the recipient to reduce the risk of complications.

While examples can be found in several areas of medicine, the role of precision medicine in day-to-day healthcare is relatively limited. Researchers hope that this approach will expand to many areas of health and healthcare in coming years.

During yesterday’s proceedings, University of Oxford professor Joshua Hordern told an audience in a session on molecularly unstratified patients that “There is a growing body of troubling evidence about the lived experience of those involved in stratified medicine, both patients and staff.

“The promise of personalisation has been heralded for some time. We want to pay attention to the effect that pursuing this promise has had on people's lives in order to improve the quality of care provided to patients and staff.'

Also yesterday, professor Karen McCloskey of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queens University Belfast took to the floor to explain the excellent work being achieved by the Athena Swan Charter for Gender Equality.

McCloskey said “The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. 

"In May 2015 the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly, and not just barriers to progression that affect women."  

ECU's Athena SWAN charter and gender equality charter mark was brought together in April 2015, then expanded the following year to include arts, humanities, social science, business and law departments alongside the current science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine disciplines. 

Processes are currently being developed and aligned to ensure the expansion is effective and meets the needs of current Athena SWAN members, the institutions that took part in the gender equality charter mark trial, and those who are considering joining either charter.  

The society is also continuing to consult with a number of key stakeholders, including funders, learned societies and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the future shape and direction of charter marks.

Source: EAPM

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Founding partners

European Cancer Organisation European Institute of Oncology

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Cancer Intelligence