A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

September 10, 2018

Role of Imaging in Precision Medicine

When we think of personalized medicine, most of us tend to think of molecular sciences such as genomics, but medical imaging has also made tremendous contributions to the field of precision medicine and continues to do so in exciting ways. Imaging has played an important role in patient care since the discovery of X-rays in 1895 and spans multiple phases of patient care ranging from screening and early diagnosis to treatment and evaluation of response. More recently, we have seen the evolution of newer modalities such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance (MR), positron emission (PET), and combined modalities such as PET-CT among others. These modalities have been instrumental in the evolution of precision medicine and the emergence of radiomics in recent years has further led to a fundamental shift in how we view medical images today. Radiomics is based upon the understanding that images derived from imaging modalities are more than just pictures. They are data files from which data can be extracted to generate valuable anatomical and physiological information as well as quantitative measurements such as volume and density, and functional measurements such as perfusion, molecule movement, etc. Attributes such as these can now be measured and evaluated over time with greater accuracy and preciseness and are opening new frontiers in the use of imaging for the determination of endpoints and biomarkers for diagnostic purposes as well as for treatment planning and support. 

Another relatively recent advancement around medical imaging that is transforming the field of personalized medicine is the emergence of molecular imaging. This technology provides researchers and clinicians a non-invasive way of studying molecular and cellular levels of the human body. Molecular imaging enables greater insight into body functions as opposed to other imaging technologies that focus on anatomical discoveries and allows an efficient method of measuring chemical and biological processes specific to an individual patient. Advantages of this field include: 

  • The ability to detect diseases at very early stages, even prior to development of clinical symptoms and before many other diagnostic tests 

  • The ability to determine information on disease location, progression and spread to other parts of the body, with high levels of accuracy

  • The support it provides in assessing changes at the molecular level and reviewing effectiveness of treatment plans at an earlier timepoint than other means

 

As exciting as each area discussed above is on its own, there are also tremendous opportunities for leveraging discoveries from multiple domains in a cohesive manner e.g. imaging data combined with information from clinical and molecular medicine to generate decision-support algorithms, precision maps, predictive models, and other such transformational innovations.  

These areas of growth are certainly not without their challenges and there is still a lot more that can be done with respect to limitations that abound with image quality and lack of appropriate infrastructure for sharing, processing and analysis. Secure and compliant platforms, such as Plexome, that enable researchers and clinicians to collaborate across global teams are helping overcome issues related with centralized storage and communication, permission-based sharing, and efficient data capture that furthers the need of many research studies and outcomes improvement projects that would otherwise be restricted, or fail to take off the ground, due to the multiple challenges they face.  The future is bright, and we look forward to doing our part in bringing truly transformational initiatives within the reach of many in the healthcare community who wouldn’t have access to it otherwise and creating an efficient path for faster transition of investigational technologies from the research to clinical care domains.

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