What is Precision Medicine and How Does It Change Veterinary Oncology

January 31, 2022
Young female scientist using auto-pipette with flask in medical science laboratory

Advancements in medical practices are essential to our development as a society. Scientists and doctors around the world are working to find the best way to increase our length and quality of life, as well as find the best treatment methods for our many existing diseases and ailments. But for the average person, who doesn’t work tirelessly as a scientist or doctor, understanding the new classifications for medical practices and what the differences are, can be a bit complicated.

First, we want to clarify a term that we often use here—Precision Medicine. This practice is relatively new in the world of human and veterinary medicine, but will likely grow to be a significant factor in future medical endeavors.


What is Precision Medicine?

Standard medicine has always been more or less focused on the patient at hand. Doctors have always strived to offer the best possible care for the patient in front of them by utilizing all of the available tools and information. Those tools and information were usually based on a wide range of research of other patients with similar ailments; a general understanding is that when a patient has these symptoms, they should get better if you treat them in this way.

Precision medicine is taking that effort to treat each patient to the best of a doctor’s knowledge one step further by considering the individual patient's variability when establishing a treatment plan. Rather than looking at treatment as a one-size-fits-all method (i.e. because you have this diagnosis, this is the treatment you should receive) precision medicine tailors treatment to the patient’s unique characteristics. Things like genes, environment, and lifestyle will certainly play a role in defining the most effective treatment method for that patient.1

Precision medicine takes in more information than the standard practice and can narrow down the most effective treatment for that patient based on all of the factors. Classifying a patient into subpopulations can help to narrow down causes for an ailment and identify the likely response to a particular treatment.

Think of how medical reception clerks often request that you fill out a history form prior to the start of your appointment, wherein you list your medical history all the way back to your grandparents. Precision medicine takes that information and gets an even closer look into what your body is predisposed to and how it reacts to treatments, by getting a closer look at your genetic code.


How is Precision Medicine helping in the veterinary world?

As with many advancements in medical technology and practices, the focus of the research community is mostly on how to advance human medicine. However, with the unique research opportunity that animals provide—especially pure-bred dogs. And the development of veterinary precision medicine is helping to advance human precision medicine by providing external research that can be applied to human studies as the practice progresses.2

Pure-bred dogs provide a unique research opportunity for medical development because they provide a large sample size of very similar genomic structures. One pure-bred labrador retriever will be almost genetically identical to another pure-bred labrador retriever—that’s the point of pure-breeds to have as many of the same characteristics as another in its breed. Because precision medicine interacts directly with the patient’s genome along with other factors, if two retrievers were to be diagnosed with the same disease—for example, cancer—the molecular variant linked to the disease would show up similarly in both dogs, making it easier for scientists to locate it.

When a veterinary disease is also shared with humans, this type of research is especially beneficial to advancing human precision medicine. Currently, there are several clinical trials targeting both human and animal patients with similar diseases, whose results are able to inform researchers of shared mutations that impact the success of certain drugs.

Precision medicine is becoming a popular interdisciplinary concept paired with oncology due to its ability to provide more accurate diagnoses for individual patients, leading to a more successful treatment approach. The partnership between human and veterinary oncologists continues further due to the environmental factor in precision medicine. Pets live in the same environment as humans and develop spontaneous tumors, discovering environmental factors for those tumors can help provide insight into human oncology when precision medical practices are included.3

But the benefits of precision veterinary medicine do not solely relate to the benefits it provides to the advancement of human medicine. Precision medicine has the opportunity to have an impact on diseases exclusive to animals that comparative medical research has not been able to impact because of the localization of the disease in animals. Developing more treatments for animals based on precision medicine, a molecularly guided practice, will likely increase the success rates for many treatments. Using molecularly driven data will help to optimize the treatment by maintaining “the right amount to the right patient at the right time.”2


What is AI

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence, a concept that works among many different factors in our day-to-day lives. Artificial intelligence, in its simplest form, is an algorithm that is used to make predictions, which quite literally opens the use of AI to a world of possibilities.

The most common applications of AI that are seen on an average day are recommendation AIs. These kinds of AIs make sure that the ads that pop up are for something that you might click on, or that Netflix’s home screen looks different for you than for your family member. The way those predictions are made is through a collection of data on you, what products you have bought online in the past, what kind of ads you’re more likely to click on, what show you watched all the way through in one sitting, and so on.

With advancing medical technology, including AI is a no-brainer. AI’s can look at decades worth of data and solve an incredibly complex problem in seconds. Medicine can be a time-sensitive practice, and having the assistance of the equivalent of hundreds of doctors helping to diagnose a patient can become the difference between life and death.4

While it may seem like AI would be the way of the future, and human doctors would become obsolete at some point, there will always be limitations to what an AI system can do. A human will need to program the AI for what it is meant to solve and provide the information and dataset that the AI will need to use to solve the problem.5 And AI doesn’t have the human touch; a computer program will not have the ability to navigate bedside manner the way a human doctor can. Developing creative solutions to unique problems will also not be an AI’s strong suit.6

However, used as a tool, AI helps to lessen the stress on a doctor or vet when it comes to using their knowledge to best diagnose and treat a patient. By having the resource of technology specifically designed to compare decades of data to the patient in front of them, AI helps doctors become more efficient.


How ImpriMed works

ImpriMed has a unique approach to veterinary precision medicine. We use our state-of-the-art labs along with AI technology to help veterinary oncologists treat canine lymphoma patients in the most efficient and effective manner available.

Because the most effective treatment for lymphoma is a chemotherapy approach, our labcan practice functional precision medicine to develop a one-of-a-kind chemotherapy prediction profile for the individual patient’s cancerous cells.

So what exactly is functional precision medicine? Rather than working with just genes, environment, and lifestyle the way that regular precision medicine does, functional precision medicine takes it a step further by studying the patient’s live cells to develop a treatment plan that will be the most effective for their individual case.

By practicing functional precision medicine, ImpriMed is able to work along with your veterinary oncologist to test the cells against chemotherapy medicines and CHOP protocol variations to develop a Personalized Prediction Profile for your dog. ImpriMed is the only lab that can currently provide prediction information to veterinarians.

ImpriMed has compiled a database containing over 2,000 past canine lymphoma patients’ information, covering breed, age, their chemotherapy reaction, and more. This database helps inform our AI system, which then compares each individual patient’s live cells’ responses to chemotherapy drugs using the data collected to predict the most likely outcome of a particular treatment for that patient.

This information helps veterinarians quickly find the best drugs for each and every individual patient they send us a live sample of.

Find out how ImpriMed can help your dog with precision medicine.