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Alliance to Study Brain Tumor Precision Diagnostics

Human brain

(Flickr)

3 February 2017. A group of medical centers and companies, mainly in Philadelphia, is beginning a study of genomic profiling to diagnose brain tumors in adults and children. Philadelphia Coalition for a Cure, or PC4C, includes insurance coverage for genomic profiles using the GPS Cancer test developed by diagnostics company NantHealth Inc. in Culver City, California.

Taking part in PC4C are neuroscientists and cancer specialists from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and medical schools at Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson University, Rowan University, and Drexel University all in Philadelphia. Joining the group is Children’s Hospital of Orange County in California. The alliance members aim to pool their resources to find new treatments for brain tumors. In a joint statement, Phillip Storm, chief of neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says “Brain tumors are the leading cause of disease-related death in children and more than 20,000 adults are diagnosed each year.”

The first project of the coalition is to begin profiling of brain tumors to identify precise genomic alterations in the tumors for decisions on treatment strategies addressing that person’s individual molecular make-up. PC4C is selecting GPS Cancer by NantHealth for this task.

GPS Cancer combines whole genome and transcriptome sequencing of DNA and RNA respectively of cancerous and normal tissue, with quantitative analysis of proteins by mass spectrometry that identifies specific chemical signatures. GPS Cancer analytics, says NantHealth, are designed to provide physicians with precise data on a patient’s cancer, including identification of biomarkers that can trigger drug resistance or indicate sensitivity to specific treatments, such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

PC4C is also aligning with Cancer Breakthroughs 2020, a project that seeks to expand the availability of immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients, to make the treatments a more viable alternative and eventually become the standard of care for cancer, replacing chemotherapy. As reported in Science & Enterprise, Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 was proposed and is led by Patrick Soon-Shiong, a physician-scientist and entrepreneur, who founded and is CEO of NantHealth, one of a collection of health-related start-ups, as well as NantKwest, a developer of cancer immunotherapies.

Soon-Shiong notes in the joint statement that, “The current standard of treatment for patients who have been diagnosed with brain tumors remains along the callous path of chemotherapy and/or radiation. Our goal in elevating the potential of combination immunotherapy as the new paradigm of cancer care is so that oncologists can offer their patients a less rigid therapy and one that is targeted at the patient’s unique biology to harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer the way it was designed to do.”

Another feature of PC4C is full insurance coverage of GPS Cancer tests by health insurer Independence Blue Cross serving Pennsylvania residents. Independence’s insurance coverage is being extended to participants enrolling in PC4C through Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Independence Blue Cross is also a participant in Cancer Breakthroughs 2020.

PC4C plans to stimulate creative ideas by conducting the research as an open science initiative, including sharing and release of data to the entire research community. All data, with patient consent, will be stored in Cavatica, an analysis and sharing platform containing pediatric cancer data. With PC4C, the database will now have adult cancer data as well.

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