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Preventive medicine: a major study conducted by ULiège and Liège University Hospital


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ULiège and the CHU of Liège are jointly conducting the ENSEMBLE project, the aim of which is to improve polygenic risk scores in the Walloon population by recruiting 10,000 patients.

T

oday, we are living longer and longer. But we are also developing more and more so-called "common and complex" diseases. These include cardiovascular diseases (such as myocardial infarction), cancers, metabolic diseases (such as diabetes), neurological diseases (such as Alzheimer's) and inflammatory diseases (such as rheumatological diseases and chronic inflammatory bowel diseases).

The increase in the incidence of these common diseases is linked to our lifestyles, but also to the ageing of our population. This increase is putting pressure on our healthcare system, jeopardising access to quality medical care for all.

The ENSEMBLE project

In this context, P3 medicine (Preventive, Personalised, Precision) will play an essential role. The ENSEMBLE project, developed in collaboration by ULiège and the CHU de Liège, aims to initiate the deployment of P3 medicine in the Walloon Region, to improve polygenic risk scores and to adapt them to the specific profile of the diverse Walloon population. To this end, by mid-2025, 10,000 patients followed at the CHU de Liège will be included on a voluntary basis in the ENSEMBLE study.

Based on large-scale analysis and comparison of the genes of individuals in a given population, the aim is to assess, using a score, the risk of certain common and complex diseases (breast cancer, colon cancer, etc.) and, consequently, to step up screening and prevention of these diseases. A new paradigm in prevention and medical monitoring is taking shape over the next few years, and the Walloon ENSEMBLE project is part of it, as are other equivalent projects in Europe and around the world.

Some countries, such as Scandinavia and the UK, have already been working with polygenic risk scores for several years. In Belgium, and more particularly in Wallonia, we currently have very little data in this area. The ENSEMBLE project's mission is to calibrate, i.e. adapt, the polygenic risk scores in the Walloon Region. Once these scores have been calibrated for our population, new tools will be created which, with or without certain environmental factors, will make it possible to assess the risk of developing common and complex diseases in each patient.

Living longer in good health

The hope is that, in the future, these new tools will enable screening, prevention and health education policies to be better targeted. In addition to other essential measures, the aim is to be able to delay or prevent the onset of common and complex diseases in patients. For example, on the basis of these scores, a patient could be advised to undergo more regular screening for colon cancer, or to do everything in his power to stop smoking if he is at high risk of myocardial infarction.

The ENSEMBLE project focuses solely on so-called "common and complex" diseases, i.e. common diseases that can benefit from prevention or early diagnosis and that can be effectively managed in a well-established way.

For example:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Myocardial infarction
  • High blood pressure
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • allergies
  • obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Cirrhosis
  • Chronic renal failure
  • Cerebrovascular accidents (CVA)
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Septic shock

Informing the public and the ethical and philosophical issues involved

The prospect of this so-called P3 medicine (Preventive, Personalised, Precision) naturally also raises ethical and philosophical questions, which is why, while the study is being carried out, its initiators, Professors Edouard Louis, Michel Georges and Vincent Bours, and its co-ordinating team, including Dr Sophie Vieujean, want to inform the general public widely and encourage interdisciplinary exchanges on this inevitable revolution in the medical approach.

The ENSEMBLE project is funded by the ERDF, as part of the MedReSyst (Network and Systems Medicine) portfolio. It is being carried out in collaboration between Liège University Hospital and ULiège (the GIGA and the Montefiore Institute).

The project was the subject of a scientific conference at the Faculty of Medicine on 28 March 2024.

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© CHU de Liège

Interested in this study?

Information : Website
Email contact : ensemble@uliege.be

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