Predictions in Medicine 2019: What's Ahead
Immunotherapy will further shape the way clinicians approach difficult-to-treat cancers
A pair of cancer immunotherapy researchers were awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work in stimulating the immune system to attack tumor cells.<sup>1</sup> This breakthrough has led to a new class of drugs and remission in some patients. While immunotherapy only works in a subset of cancers, ongoing research into tumor immunology promises to broaden the scope of tumors treated and bolster the effectiveness and safety of these therapies. In addition, CAR-T research will continue to evolve and offer insight into this novel and personalized therapeutic approach to cancer.
The tech world will play an increasing role in cancer research
Engineers and programmers at Microsoft are using computer science to tackle illness. In a departure from traditional cancer research methods, researchers are building algorithms and using tools including machine learning and natural language processing in an effort to “solve” cancer.<sup>2</sup> Meanwhile, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is working with Microsoft to develop technology that will track patients’ vital signs with the aim of “better predicting distressing episodes and enabling clinical intervention before complications become emergencies.”<sup>3</sup>
3D printing will reduce trial-and-error in cancer treatment
Over time, 3D printing has emerged as a promising tool in cancer treatment. Researchers at MIT 3D printed a microfluidic device that simulates cancer treatments on tumor tissue. This device may help clinicians better understand how individual patients will respond to therapies.<sup>4</sup> As the Cleveland Clinic notes, 3D printing “gives medical practitioners the ability to provide patients the most advanced care, while simultaneously minimizing the risk of complication in patients that meet specific medical requirements.”<sup>5</sup>
Virtual reality technology will complement traditional medical education
Virtual reality (VR) technology is becoming increasingly popular in medical schooling. VR programs simulate training exercises, providing health care professionals a hands-on learning experience. The Cleveland Clinic states, “education via simulation is a productive step toward the system’s most adept and confident health care providers.”<sup>5</sup>
Artificial intelligence will help clinicians stay fresh
A <em>Cancer Therapy Advisor</em> <a href="https://www.cancertherapyadvisor.com/cta-community-poll-how-does-your-work-life-balance-compare-to-your-peers/slideshow/2137/" target="_blank">community poll</a> conducted in 2014 found that 36% of respondents rarely or never felt as if their job allowed them sufficient work-life balance. The same year, a study published in the <em>Journal of Clinical Oncology</em> found that 44.7% of oncologists displayed at least one symptom of burnout.<sup>6</sup> However, there is optimism that <a href="https://www.rheumatologyadvisor.com/practice-management/ai-tools-may-reduce-physician-burnout/article/746518/" target="_blank">artificial intelligence</a> (AI) may help clinicians stay fresh. In the coming year, AI, which can be trained to recognize patterns in large swaths of data, may aid in reducing the amount of time that clinicians spend on administrative tasks.
A new partner in the fight to cure cancer. A once-unlikely source for combatting clinician burnout. These are some of the advances we and other experts predict will affect oncologists and their patients in 2019 and beyond. Take a look inside our crystal ball.
- Grady D. 2018 nobel prize in medicine awarded to 2 cancer immunotherapy researchers. The New York Times. October 1, 2018. Accessed December 19, 2018.
- Linn A. How Microsoft computer scientists and researchers are working to 'solve' cancer. Microsoft. Accessed December 19, 2018.
- Russell S. Fred Hutch and Microsoft partner for better cancer care delivery. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. May 4, 2018. Accessed December 19, 2018.
- Matheson R. To guide cancer therapy, device quickly tests drugs on tumor tissue. MIT. December 12, 2018. Accessed December 19, 2018.
- Cleveland Clinic unveils top 10 medical innovations for 2019. Cleveland Clinic. October 24, 2018. Accessed December 19, 2018.
- Shanfelt TD, Gradishar WJ, Kosty M, et al. Burnout and career satisfaction among US oncologists. J Clin Oncol. 2014;32(7):678-686.
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