The difference between science and science fiction is a line that seems ever harder to distinguish, thanks in part to a host of astonishing advances in medical science that are helping to create a new age of promise and possibility for patients.
Today cancer drugs are increasingly twinned with a diagnostic device that can determine whether a patient will respond to the drug based on their tumor’s genetic characteristics; medical imaging can be used to identify the best implantable device to treat a specific patient with clogged coronary arteries; and progress in regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy using a patient’s own cells could lead to the replacement or regeneration of their missing or damaged tissues.
Given these trends, the future of medicine is rapidly approaching the promising level of care and cure once imagined by Hollywood in futuristic dramas like Star Trek.
But these examples are not science fiction. They are very real achievements that demonstrate the era of “personalized medicine” where advances in the science of drug development, the study of genes and their functions, the availability of increasingly powerful computers and other technologies, combined with our greater understanding of the complexity of disease, makes it possible to tailor treatments to the needs of an individual patient.
We now know that patients with similar symptoms may have different diseases with different causes. Individual patients who may appear to have the same disease may respond differently (or not at all) to treatments of that disease.