Panel Event

5 March, 2021

William Viney

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Personalised’ or ‘precision’ medicine promises the ‘right treatment, to right person, at the right time’ in contrast to standard one-size-fits-all approaches. But what is the right time for personalised medicine? Using liquid biopsies, early findings suggest that it is possible to predict the molecular relapse of breast cancer up to two years in advance of existing screening technologies. In our observations and interviews with patents, staff, and researchers involved in one study, we found ‘personalised’ genetic monitoring to refigure disease in ways that affect how cancer is researched and experienced, and how it is imagined as a temporal phenomenon. We do not know how liquid biopsies will be used in the clinic; they open futures that are both hopeful and uncertain. Using terms developed by Auerbach (1938; 1946) I will discuss personalised tracking in terms of their serial, figure-fulfilment relationships between events, persons, and different future research programmes. Research in the field of liquid biopsies generates ways of figuring disease recurrence that tracks changes in disease for individuals, and this can be figured as a line or path determined by combinations of data. Yet such work involves a layering of figures, emerging and residual, novel and archaic in pattern, that parallel trajectories of development and progression into the wider infrastructures of translational research. To what extent such figures can be symbolically and materially occupied is a question of time. Or rather, a question of how time is questioned and figured, coded and tracked, and transformed.