Raul Married |
Madrid (EFE).- The most avant-garde medical research focuses on personalizing treatments as much as possible with the aim of fine-tuning results, reducing collateral damage and even preventing diseases, and “digital twins” -virtual replicas of patients – are making their way in this field as a possible paradigm of precision medicine.
Numerous research centers and hospitals have launched ambitious projects to create “digital twins” that accurately replicate the data and characteristics of each patient to try to fully customize their needs based on the data obtained from the sequencing of their genome. and clinical history, but also information related to their lifestyle.
Many of these projects are based on the increasingly consolidated premise that the solution to some of the great challenges facing medical research will come from the combination of all branches of scientific and technological knowledge: from genomics, proteomics or molecular biology, to bioinformatics, artificial intelligence or big data.
“Digital twins” in breast cancer
The National Cancer Research Center (CNIO) has launched, in collaboration with twelve other research centers, the “High-definition oncology in female cancer” project, an initiative endowed with 2.5 million euros to create computational models ( digital twins) that accurately replicate women with breast cancer.
And a consortium of six universities, hospitals and research centers have also promoted a project (Leukodomics) to create virtual twins of children or adolescents with leukemia and simulate what their response to treatment and evolution will be, as well as the chances of success, possible toxicities and to evaluate the long-term evolution.
The researcher Miguel Ángel Quintela, head of the CNIO Breast Cancer Clinical Research Unit, has insisted that the project piloted by this center is in its initial phases and that he is therefore sending a message of caution until the results are verified, but believes that it can become one of the best tools to reduce the most negative and toxic effects of treatments.
“It would be unlikely that we assign a treatment to a patient knowing that it will not work for her,” Quintela said in statements to EFE, and has observed that these effects are currently known at the group level but not on an individual basis.
Hospital La Princesa; that of Fuenlabrada; the Clinic of Valencia; that of Son Espases (Balearic Islands); the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the Hospital Complex of Navarra; the Virgen de la Macarena Hospital in Seville; that of San Pedro de Cáceres; the A Coruña Hospital Complex; and the Carlos III and Polytechnic universities of Madrid.
To accurately replicate each “virtual twin”, the researchers will collect genomics or proteomics data from each patient, which will also be monitored to compile information about their lifestyle, the use of social networks or even their condition. emotional.
Thus, through body devices such as the popular digital bracelets, data such as the pulse, the concentration of oxygen in the blood or the physical activity carried out by each breast cancer patient will be recorded, which will be completed with their “fingerprint” and the activity they carried out in networks or the use of mobile phones, and will be completed with data related to your emotional state or your quality of life.
Quintela has highlighted the importance of all these factors to complete the history of each patient, and has cited as an example that a person with an unhealthy diet can have a worse immune system, or the determining influence that their level of socialization can have.
Multidisciplinary search to specify the results
“The application that we have developed measures how often the patient unlocks the mobile phone; The mental state of a person who unlocks it three times per hour is not the same as that of the one who unlocks it fifty times per minute; we can intuit that the second is more nervous and that is revealing information”, explained the researcher, and specified that the devices will also allow relevant information such as the “social support” of each patient to be known, if they spend a lot of time at home or whether it is active or quiet.
The “Leukodomics” project, also financed with European funds and which will last for two years, involves numerous medical researchers, but also from areas such as computer science, mathematics or physics, and the Complutense University of Madrid has joined it. ; the Research Institute of the public Hospital 12 de Octubre; the University of Castilla-La Mancha; the Francisco de Vitoria University; the National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC); and the Niño Jesús Hospital in Madrid.
The researchers will try to generate digital models that integrate all the information on children and adolescents with leukemia: what was the diagnosis, the response to treatment or their genetic background, with the aim of obtaining a personalized model for predicting the disease in different simulated scenarios. , without the need for the patient to intervene directly and minimizing the risk.
According to the Hospital Niño Jesús – which coordinates the project from the pediatric oncology area – it is about incorporating for the first time computational models of the disease and computer resources from data science, in order to improve and refine as much as possible the results of the treatments.