Piedmont Cancer has joined an alliance of provider organizations that is collecting molecular data and tracking the results of outcomes of patients who have had their tumors profiled.
The research collaborative, called the Caris Precision Oncology Alliance, now has 22 members that are cancer care centers working together on the research project. Piedmont Cancer is one of the facilities operated by Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare.
The Caris alliance is collecting the data to develop standards of care and best practices for use of tumor profiling to make cancer treatment more precise and effective. The alliance uses the Caris Molecular Intelligence platform, a suite of genomic and proteomic profiling services to support precision medicine by matching therapy options and clinical trial tests most suitable for the patient based on unique molecular characteristics of the patient’s tumor.
Tumor profiling looks for certain genes in the tumor for information that may identify the best treatment options for a physician to consider. Piedmont views the alliance as an opportunity to advance cancer care for its patients and others as alliance members share findings, says Erin Dunbar, MD, medical director at the Piedmont Brain Tumor Center.
“There has been an explosion of understanding metabolic and genomic aberrations of tumors,” she notes. “Now we have definable drugs we can give or more responsive radiation treatment we can give. We’re individualizing patient care. Ultrasonic interrogation, or the characterizing of biologic tissues, is one of the most important areas of advocacy I can give my patients.”
With interrogation, clinicians get a piece of tissue from the tumor and do a biopsy; then, they try to figure out what course of treatment makes the most sense to treat the tumor, Dunbar explains.
The analysis can tell whether radiation treatment has killed or is killing the tumor, or whether certain biological markers indicate whether a particular drug will work better than other drugs.
“Now, with the Caris Molecular Intelligence platform, we can do diagnostics in real-time clarifying if tissue is dead, dying, inflamed or progressing,” Dunbar says.
The collection, analysis and sharing of data via the platform also will better inform clinicians of treatment options they may not previously considered, Dunbar believes.
“If you keep giving the same medicines but the tumor marker is no longer present, you might give a drug with toxicities but (it provides) no benefit. New drugs and markers are coming out all the time, and we want to know the right precision of how to treat that patient. In getting the signature of the tumor, we are individualizing which treatment will work best.”
Early adopter clinicians at Piedmont who have started using the platform are finding they are getting enhanced information and learning more, and that’s resulting in more robust consultations with specialists, Dunbar says. Clinicians and specialists also are using the information to educate patients and enhance patient engagement.
That higher level of engagement by clinicians and patients will pave the way toward providers getting more access to clinical trials for their patients, which may be the most exciting result from the program, Dunbar adds. “As we learn more, we want to link our knowledge to clinical trials for all of our patients. We’re learning and expanding our science for future patients and now we have a platform to work together.”
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