The true meaning of personalized medicine

The true meaning of personalized medicine

A recent virtual workshop sought to determine the needs of patients when it comes to personalized or precision medicine. Danielle Barron reports 

What is personalized medicine, and what does it mean for the everyday reality of patients?

A uniquely designed workshop at the recent Patient Engagement Open Forum sought to answer these questions by seeking to understand the landscape of information and support needs of the patient community (and others) in order to make informed decisions around personalized (or precision) medicine at various points in time.

Hosted by PARADIGM, PFMD and EUPATI, the Patient Engagement Open forum is a series of virtual events where a broad range of stakeholders aim to work together to turn patient engagement into reality. Although it migrated online this year, a large and eager audience still participated in each of the interactive and dynamic workshops. 

“From diagnosis to treatment and beyond: personalized medicine – what’s in it for patients and understanding patient needs to make it a reality?” was the workshop led by the “From Testing to Treatment Program” (FT3). The program aims to accelerate the benefits of Personalized Medicine and Precision Medicine (PM) by generating better evidence, creating awareness and building the conditions for better access to targeted medicine in oncology and beyond. 

FT3 is a global, open and collaborative multistakeholder program that aims to build synergies and accelerate pragmatic efforts to make PM an accessible reality for all those who could benefit from it, starting with oncology and testing. 

During this PE Open Forum workshop, attendees participated in an interactive exercise aimed at understanding the landscape of information and support needs of the patient community (and others) in order to make informed decisions around PM at various points in time. The insights gathered will inform the co-creating of PM support and information materials for the patient community, supplementing existing resources and tailoring the content to best address the unmet needs of patients.

Each patient experience is different, but the workshop aimed to highlight distinct ‘moments’ that are relevant from a patient perspective in terms of personalized and precision medicine. These were: Risk; Prognosis; Diagnosis; Treatment; and Monitoring. Patients were asked to identify their needs as they related to each of these distinct aspects of their experience so that a picture could be painted of changing requirements at these different and discrete moments.

In total, a staggering 220 support and information needs were identified during the workshop. Grouping these and assimilating similar suggestions led to a “top 10” list of needs, which helped to paint a picture of the myriad questions patients understandably have about all aspects of their diagnosis, prognosis, treatment and outcomes. What emerged was that patients are missing or don’t know where to find information crucial to each aspect of their patient experience, from initial diagnosis to treatment to living with the condition.

Although these are simply a sample of the hundreds if needs identified during the workshop, they were those that were shared by the largest number of patients who participated. These insights will now be considered as the FT3 begins its co-creation initiative with patients.

Leslie Manot was a patient representative who spoke powerfully about her personal experience with rare lung cancer during the session. She praised the “brainstorming” format utilized within the workshop, saying it compared favorably to other similar webinars or web conferences. 

“The format was very clear and well prepared,” said Manot. “The instructions were easy to understand and the results quickly readable.” She added that this event was hugely important, as it was a great opportunity for patients to pool their knowledge and strengths in order to improve their care at an international level.

Manot noted that it was a learning curve for patients too, helping them to understand that the struggles or difficulties they may face, other patients around the world face them too. “The surprise for me was to understand that most of the participants have the same issue as in France for test availability and drug market access.” She added she hopes the results will form the basis for discussions with the relevant authorities on the wide disparities in innovation access.

Why is it so important to capture patient insights? Manot said: “The patients are becoming experts in their disease, as due to internet utilization they have access to medical information, and they can share their experiences with other patients. Some of them even have a diploma to show they are a ‘patient-expert’. The professionals have knowledge but patients have experience.”