By Francis Lee, MD
Finding better cures or therapies for cancer is exceptionally daunting given that no two patients or tumors are exactly alike. At M2GEN, we are committed to taking on the challenge. As an oncology-focused bioinformatics company, we believe the cornerstone of effective cancer treatment is deep molecular tumor profiling, which essentially involves sequencing the genome and transcriptome of a tumor to uncover the genetic anomalies locked inside its DNA and RNA.
Why is deep molecular tumor profiling so important? Targeted cancer therapies, which are precisely aimed at addressing specific genetic mutations, are being developed and becoming available at an increasing speed. As a result, oncologists often have a range of options to consider for each patient when determining the optimal course of treatment. Tumor profiling helps oncologists determine which patients stand to benefit the most from a targeted treatment option.
While the importance of tumor profiling is clear, the process itself can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive for researchers, mainly due to the massive quantities of reliable data that must first be collected, integrated, and analyzed. By developing unique data solutions and tools that leverage the power of oncology informatics—such as the ORIEN AVATAR® Research Program—we are carving out a path for scientists, allowing them to focus more keenly on the unique genetic abnormalities that lead to tumor development, growth, and spread.
Bringing Key Stakeholders Together to Solve Cancer’s Most Challenging Problems
Many breakthroughs in cancer prevention and treatment are made possible through collaborative research. With that in mind, M2GEN is proud to have a role in facilitating the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN). Established in 2014, ORIEN is a unique alliance of leading academic cancer centers throughout the nation that are working together to achieve a common goal—to create a world without cancer.
Born of an effort to integrate “big data” and enable the sharing of information among oncology scientists and clinicians, ORIEN enables unprecedented research opportunities and fosters collaborative efforts to generate results in a way that individual institutions could not. With over 100 publications developed by ORIEN members based on Total Cancer Care Data, it has also furthered the precision cancer medicine initiatives already in place at member institutions. As a result, ORIEN is fundamentally changing how various malignancies are studied and treated, and ultimately improving the outcomes of countless current and future cancer patients.
Furthering Collaboration Through a Standardized Protocol
Serving as the foundation of ORIEN is the Total Cancer Care® protocol, a longitudinal surveillance study of cancer patients who have agreed to donate their tissue specimens and clinical data for research purposes. A single protocol utilized by all ORIEN members, Total Cancer Care is designed to help scientists better understand the differences among cancer patients on a deeper level. Specifically, it allows researchers to monitor the clinical progression of each participating patient over the course of his or her lifetime, accessing clinical outcomes data and studying the genomic sequencing of tumors.
Central to the success of Total Cancer Care are consented cancer patients across the network. With nearly 300,000 participants to date, Total Cancer Care is one of the largest observational studies of its kind.
Connecting the Dots to Reveal the “Big Picture”
Launched in 2016, M2GEN’s AVATAR Research Program expands upon the data amassed through Total Cancer Care to create comprehensive genotypic and phenotypic profiles of cancer patients. Through the trusted partnerships made possible through Total Cancer Care, many patients contribute their clinical and molecular data, which is specifically optimized for oncology research in AVATAR. This rich and robust data is fully HIPAA-compliant with the identity of each patient is concealed behind an avatar.
Through AVATAR, ORIEN members can inform their research endeavors and accelerate their discoveries by accessing longitudinal clinical data (more than 300 elements), which is fully integrated with deep molecular whole exome, transcriptome, and germline sequencing data. Significantly, AVATAR can foster more precise clinical trial matching by enabling researchers to develop advanced cohorts based on highly nuanced aspects of cancer, such as novel biomarkers and genetic mutations.
By improving patient recruitment and targeting for clinical trials—particularly when scientists determine that the population most likely benefit from a new therapy can be identified by molecular characteristics present in small subsets of cancer patients—AVATAR allows researchers to conduct more refined and comprehensive analyses.
Working Together to Usher in the Next Generation of Cancer Therapies
At M2GEN, we believe the best way to achieve breakthroughs in precision cancer medicine is to study the disease from every possible angle through multidisciplinary, collaborative research to learn as much as we can from each patient. We hope you will join us—and an esteemed group of the nation’s most renowned researchers and prominent cancer centers—in these trailblazing efforts. This research is leading to better patient outcomes and quality of life. Working together, we can continue this progress.
For information on how to subscribe to the ORIEN AVATAR Research Program, contact M2GEN today.