By Daniel Elgort
Chief Data and Analytics Officer, M2GEN
Ways to Accelerate the Development of New Cancer Therapies
The 21st century has seen numerous paradigm-shifting approaches to the ways that cancer is diagnosed and treated, and these advancements have had enormous implications for patients across the world. On average, patients with cancer are experiencing increases in remission rates, longer lifespans, and improved quality of life. There are many reasons for such improvements, including increased early detection and an advancement in diagnostic technologies, such as imaging. Most notably, however, is the proliferation of new and more effective cancer treatments.
With the introduction and subsequent rapid advancement of genetic sequencing technologies, researchers have developed an increasingly clear picture of cancer’s genetic underpinnings. This has enabled scientists to shift the approach of cancer care, making it much more personalized. Today, many cancers are identified on a granular level according to the presence or absence of dozens of biomarkers. Numerous precision treatments, including immunotherapies and gene therapies, have been successfully developed on the back of this genomic research, and many more are in various stages of research and development.
Despite rapid progress, there are still countless mysteries to unravel in understanding the genetic factors that drive cancer’s development, spread, and response to treatment. The goal of all stakeholders in cancer care—including physicians, researchers, and, of course, patients—is to develop the safest and most effective therapies as quickly as possible. Here, we’ll explore ways to accelerate genomic discoveries as well as the development of precision treatments and explain what M2GEN—an oncology-focused bioinformatics company—is doing to help.
Advancements in Technology
Improving treatment outcomes for cancer patients requires innovations across many different types of technologies. Perhaps most notably, next-generation sequencing (NGS) has provided important insights into actionable cancer biomarkers that can be targeted with precision therapies. Additionally, such technologies have played a key role in pharmacogenomics, providing researchers the ability to better predict the treatment response of patients based on their unique genetic profiles.
Continued investment in NGS is critical to accelerating discovery, as it will increase throughput while reducing costs. Additionally, making efforts to deploy genetic sequencing technologies into clinical care settings will provide patients with greater access.
At M2GEN, we work with world-class cancer centers and NGS laboratories to provide researchers with critical whole-exome genomic sequencing and gene expression data. As the technology improves, we will be able to provide our research partners with ever-richer datasets.
Of course, genetic sequencing technologies are hardly the only exciting advancements contributing to cancer research. For example, in just the past decade, researchers have gained access to gene editing, advanced artificial intelligence, and other revolutionary tools. What’s more, improved telehealth infrastructure has enabled more patients, including those in traditionally underserved communities, to participate in research studies and clinical trials. There’s every reason to believe that further investment in these technologies will result in new discoveries and improved treatment outcomes.
Breaking Down Research Silos
Many leading cancer centers are compartmentalized in departmental silos. While there are advantages in such a focused approach, excessive compartmentalization can hinder progress. Accelerating the development of new cancer therapies will require a more unified approach wherein information is shared freely and there are plentiful opportunities for collaboration.
M2GEN has taken a leading role in changing this approach. As the operational engine of the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network™ (ORIEN™), we facilitate data sharing and collaboration among dozens of the world’s leading cancer centers. We are bridging the gap between discovery and patient care while helping to eliminate restrictive research silos and establishing clear protocols for cooperation among stakeholders in cancer research, thereby spurring innovation and driving discovery.
Increased Patient Participation
Generating the clinical and genomic data needed for meaningful research requires participation from hundreds of thousands of patients. To achieve this, M2GEN created the Total Cancer Care™ (TCC) protocol—a pioneering long-term study implemented at ORIEN cancer centers that has allowed us to generate the most comprehensive clinicogenomic research dataset of cancer patients in the world.
As ORIEN membership expands and the TCC Study continues to grow, researchers will have access to an increasingly rich source of genomic and clinical data that can be used to discover new cancer therapies and biomarkers, establish comparator cohorts, develop in-silico clinical trials, and much more. Additionally, patients participating in the TCC protocol are able to be recontacted, making it easier for our partners to identify potential clinical trial participants based on highly specific criteria.
Standardization of Data
Data is at the heart of cancer research. However, there is no global standard when it comes to recording and storing healthcare data. Effectively facilitating data aggregation and analysis requires thoughtful standardization practices to be implemented across cancer centers. In this effort, M2GEN is also leading the charge.
M2GEN has developed approaches that achieve significant levels of standardization across its multi-center Avatar oncology dataset, supporting research collaboration and analysis. This dataset contains comprehensive phenotypic and genotypic profiles of consenting cancer patients, tracking clinical progressions throughout patients’ lifetimes. The robust, standardized, and longitudinal Avatar data, along with a world-class molecular pipeline analytics service, is revolutionizing how data is aggregated and shared, and it will only become more valuable as the dataset expands.
Moving Closer to a Cure
Bringing about the next generation of cancer therapies and making precision medicine the standard of care will require a unified approach, enormous investments in burgeoning technologies and fields of study, and mass mobilization from the business, technology, government, and healthcare sectors. For more information about M2GEN’s role in accelerating the discovery and development of more effective cancer treatments, contact us to schedule a demonstration of our bioinformatics tools and services.
For More Information
M2GEN is committed to breaking down research silos and bringing together leaders in oncology in order to improve outcomes and quality of life for cancer patients around the globe. If you’d like to know more about M2GEN, ORIEN, or any of our other products or services, contact us today.