April 15th, 2011
Posted by Caroline Popper, M.D., M.P.H.
In the earlier days of the Internet, the consumer of medical or health-related information was a lone traveler, wandering through dark alleys of information often with little more than intuition and guesswork to guide the way. Who knew what type of foul play lurked in those unregulated shadows?
Interestingly, it isn’t watchdog regulation that’s lighting the path for the lost consumer of medical information today; it’s exciting partnerships around transparent technologies and practices that are seizing the market. For example, we recently participated in the 3rd Annual Personalized Medicine Partnerships Conference, which was designed to shed light on issues of paramount importance to the future of personalized medicine, including partnerships, clinical utility/validation, and the commercial realities of personalized medicine in the global healthcare marketplace. More to come from that conference in future posts…
Here, I want to highlight the recent collaboration of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and CollabRX in using online app technology for collecting targeted information as an example of the emerging trend of interesting partnerships in this space.
There are inherent complexities within and different molecular pathways for each cancer type. New therapies are being developed and physicians continue to build their armamentarium of drugs to provide cancer patients with the most effective treatment. In many instances, due to the biology of the tumor, stage of disease, location, and lymph node infiltration, it is not a single treatment given over a lengthy period of time, but a combination of drugs that is the patient’s best option. Much of the time so-called cocktails may only be substantiated in a small group of patients sharing a similar molecular subtype. Sharing knowledge—treatment and outcomes—from these small but significant patient cohorts will help to create patterns of targeted therapy in cancer care that can then be extrapolated and used in patients with similar molecular attributes, regardless of locations or provider. This information is becoming available on the web as an open-source, real-time community benefiting physicians and scientists but also (and most importantly) allowing the patient to access information relevant to his or her diagnosis and to be part of the decision-making process.
These new organizations and online tools are inevitable since patients are becoming better informed about the implications of their unique genetic predisposition. They understand that drug protocols are highly specialized and that there are rarely broad fixes in medical treatment. This rise in genetic consciousness brings on a greater demand for personalized medical information that can guide changes in lifestyle, and with these changes there’s the assumption—if not the need—to partner with companies who can provide unbiased consumer information based on targeted advances in the field. The new CollabRX-ASCO collaboration is just one example of targeted information for patient-consumer assessment, but other companies such as 23andme, Navigenics, and deCODEme are also offering tools to empower patients and medical consumers.
Companies are seeing the collaborative doors opening and they’re confident that the path to success is one walked with physician, consumer, and institutions alike. Some level of regulation will always be necessary, but the practical transparency of intelligent partnerships allows information technology to evolve towards its goal of providing accessible, validated and most importantly, actionable information. These partnerships are a huge step in this direction, and they’re bound to continue to grow.
Do you agree? Please comment and let us know your thoughts on the emerging trend of consumer empowerment and new technology partnerships. Your thoughts are always greatly appreciated.