METM21 Online presentation 

Big data and precision medicine: high hopes or great confusion? A brief guided tour for scientific translators and editors

Katarzyna Szymańska, Tassin La Demi-Lune, France

Our DNA has made it to the news many times in the past decades. Over one hundred years after scientists started to link molecular alterations and diseases, technological developments now allow us to look at hundreds of genes at the same time. Molecular analyses, targeted therapies and precision medicine have become real hot topics and a source of fervent hope. We can easily produce huge amounts of data. Yet, the language, just like the clinical practice, does not always follow at the same pace.

My presentation will tell the story of how we got from looking at single genes to sequencing the whole human genome and to making complex multilayer molecular analyses in the so-called -omics era. I will show how the generation of large amounts of diverse health-related data impacts our perception of diseases and feeds the development of more effective “personalised” therapeutic strategies, allowing clinical medicine to become more and more precise. I will also explain what this really means for patients and – most of all – for language specialists. Should we say “personalised medicine” or “precision medicine”? Or maybe “targeted treatment”? Are “targeted therapy” and “molecular therapy” the same? Much more than a brief historical guide, this presentation will walk attendees through some nuances of the associated language, with practical examples of newly coined or redefined terms, and paying particular attention to those that are often confused.

This knowledge update will be useful for both experienced medical translators or editors and beginners in the field. It will help them better understand relevant documents and avoid common mistakes in their own writing. It may also be of interest to anyone eager to learn more about how molecular technologies have been revolutionising our understanding of diseases, and our ways to diagnose and treat them… and also our language.

About the presenter

Katarzyna Szymańska has a PhD in Biological Sciences (specialty: cancer), a postgraduate study diploma in translation, and wide international experience in (and in-between) these two fields. As a founder of Science to the Point, she runs tailor-made CPD trainings in science, scientific and cross-culture communication, and biomedical translation.