Eat your spinach. Go exercise. Take good care of yourself.
We've all heard them before and it all seems to be good advice—if you actually do it. But science and technology are adding another important "spin" to the discussion (yes, I did use the word spin). Grail is a company that might be shifting the domain of prevention away from the bowls of spinach and the gym to the value of early, very early detection. At ASCOthis past weekend, data suggest that Grail could identify lung cancers. The tests seem to work better in later stage cancers (more circulating markers) but it's the hope of the company to identify cancer at a very early stage. There also seems to be a low incidence of false positives, which can be an almost equally important finding. Forbes' Matthew Herper shares his recent insights and concerns here.
So, let's do one of Einstein's thought experiments moving from physics to cancer. Imagine if we could find the very first cancer cell in a body. Yes, impossible and clinically ill-informed, but let's just let the thought experiment play out. If we can detect and destroy that illusive and invasive cell, then we end up sharing a border with something—prevention. In other words, the path to prevention may be best accomplished by technological intervention that can impact disease at stage zero.
The path to prevention may be technology's ultimate achievement in medicine and health.
It's my assertion that advances in health technology are moving in this direction. From nanoparticles that circulate throughout our bodies, to improvements in imaging technology, and even regenerative medicine, we now are moving toward the power of techno-mediated prevention that make that old adage "apple a day" seem a little antiquated. And perhaps, we might even move from "apple" to "stem cell" as the new axiom of prevention.
So, is disease becoming yesterday's concern? Certainly not. But the emergence of innovations like early disease detection, stem cell-mediated organ repair and regeneration are establishing a new and yet "old fashioned" perspective that prevention is the best medicine. In this case, it's coming in the form of technology.
A version of this article first appeared on Forbes.
John is the #1 global influencer in digital health and generally regarded as one of the top global strategic and creative thinkers in this important and expanding area. He is also one the most popular speakers around the globe presenting his vibrant and insightful perspective on the future of health innovation. His focus is on guiding companies, NGOs, and governments through the dynamics of exponential change in the health / tech marketplaces. He is also a member of the Google Health Advisory Board, pens HEALTH CRITICAL for Forbes--a top global blog on health & technology and THE DIGITAL SELF for Psychology Today—a leading blog focused on the digital transformation of humanity. He is also on the faculty of Exponential Medicine. John has an established reputation as a vocal advocate for strategic thinking and creativity. He has built his career on the “science of advertising,” a process where strategy and creativity work together for superior marketing. He has also been recognized for his ability to translate difficult medical and scientific concepts into material that can be more easily communicated to consumers, clinicians and scientists. Additionally, John has distinguished himself as a scientific thinker. Earlier in his career, John was a research associate at Harvard Medical School and has co-authored several papers with global thought-leaders in the field of cardiovascular physiology with a focus on acute myocardial infarction, ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death.