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Practicing Pathology in the Era of Big Data and Personalized Medicine

Gu, Jiang MD, PhD*; Taylor, Clive R. MD, D Phil

Applied Immunohistochemistry & Molecular Morphology: January 2014 - Volume 22 - Issue 1 - p 1–9
doi: 10.1097/PAI.0000000000000022
Review Article

The traditional task of the pathologist is to assist physicians in making the correct diagnosis of diseases at the earliest possible stage to effectuate the optimal treatment strategy for each individual patient. In this respect surgical pathology (the traditional tissue diagnosis) is but a tool. It is not, of itself, the purpose of pathology practice; and change is in the air. This January 2014 issue of Applied Immunohistochemistry and Molecular Morphology (AIMM) embraces that change by the incorporation of the agenda and content of the journal Diagnostic Molecular Morphology (DMP). Over a decade ago AIMM introduced and promoted the concept of “molecular morphology,” and has sought to publish molecular studies that correlate with the morphologic features that continue to define cancer and many diseases. That intent is now reinforced and extended by the merger with DMP, as a logical and timely response to the growing impact of a wide range of genetic and molecular technologies that are beginning to reshape the way in which pathology is practiced. The use of molecular and genomic techniques already demonstrates clear value in the diagnosis of disease, with treatment tailored specifically to individual patients. Personalized medicine is the future, and personalized medicine demands personalized pathology. The need for integration of the flood of new molecular data, with surgical pathology, digital pathology, and the full range of pathology data in the electronic medical record has never been greater. This review describes the possible impact of these pressures upon the discipline of pathology, and examines possible outcomes. There is a sense of excitement and adventure. Active adaption and innovation are required. The new AIMM, incorporating DMP, seeks to position itself for a central role in this process.

*Department of Pathology, Shantou University Medical College, Shantou, Guangdong, China

Department of Pathology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Clive R. Taylor, MD, D Phil, Department of Pathology, HMR 311, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 2011, Zonal Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033 (e-mail:

Received October 31, 2013

Accepted October 31, 2013

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.