Aurora Health Care and University of Texas Health Sciences recently joined the Strata Precision Oncology Network, bringing to 10 the number of healthcare organizations collaborating to improve access for patients who have advanced solid tumor and lymphoma cancers so they can participate in clinical trials that incorporate precision medicine.

The network, backed with a technology platform from vendor Strata Oncology and electronic health record data feeds from participants, was formed in 2016. It currently serves about 85,000 patients annually and offers new patients tumor profiling that can match them with pharmaceutical firms conducting trials pertinent to each patient’s specific type of tumor.

There is no cost to the patient for the tumor profiling or treatment. The network is funded by pharmaceutical firms that pay the network to assist in identifying and enrolling patients in clinical trials.

“This partnership reinforces our commitment to transform healthcare and deliver superior outcomes,” says Michael Thompson, MD, a hematologist/oncologist at Aurora Cancer Care and a co-director of the precision medicine program at Aurora.

Other member organizations of the network include Christiana Care, Kaiser Permanente-Northern California, Kettering Health Network, Metro Minnesota Community Research Consortium, Ochsner Health System, UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.

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Research starts with querying electronic health record systems to define a specific cancer population being studied and obtain diagnoses, histories and tissue availability, says Dan Rhodes, CEO at Strata Oncology. “This feeds into test request forms so we can sequence parts of a patient’s DNA and RNA and return a report on the genetic composition of a patient’s cancer. Data is returned to providers via an application programming interface as a PDF, with underlying genetic data in structured text for administrators and the research team.”

The dashboard enables access to data of all patients tested in the laboratory with all data shared in a de-identified form to drive research and new clinical trials by biopharmaceutical firms, Rhodes adds.

However, with technology in place to support precision medicine, the next step in the program was unexpected.

“When we launched, we expected rapid and broad adoption with cutting edge care being given,” Rhodes recalls. “But there were a number of barriers inside health systems that slowed the pace of adoption.”

Challenges include the fact that doctors have to remember to order tests through the platform; patients must be catalogued in the EHR; and the program had to seek permission from doctors to have their patients included in the program at a health system scale.

“This is quite the challenge in the precision medicine era to find the precise patients that researchers need and to have venture capital funding,” Rhodes explains. “We believe this treatment eventually will be reimbursed. We are generating the evidence to make the case that this testing really is required for all advanced cancer patients.”

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