The care of cancer patients has changed dramatically over the past decade – personalized medicine is no longer just an idea being discussed. With immunotherapy and treatments targeted at specific gene markers, Life Sciences companies are moving rapidly to try to introduce new therapies to the market.
Yet with the increased number of clinical trials, how do the sponsors find an adequate number of patients in those subpopulations?
A recent New York Times article1
, A Cancer Conundrum: Too Many Drug Trials, Too Few Patients
, addressed the struggle to find patients for these specific trials, as there are “too many experimental cancer drugs in too many clinical trials and not enough patients to test them on.” As of August, the author noted that there were more than 1,000 immunotherapy trials started, with more to follow. Scientists worry about the availability of patients or subjects for these trials.
“One of the biggest challenges is getting physicians to do appropriate testing, to ensure they are providing the patients with the most appropriate care,” noted Susan Weidner, senior vice president of IntrinsiQ Specialty Solutions. While the targeted treatments may help patients in a subpopulation having a specific gene marker, often the physician’s hands are tied because payers do not necessarily support the full cost of genomic testing – especially at the earlier stages of diagnosis. Physicians deciding to use this expensive technology (which can cost up to $5000 per case2
) understand the impact to their patients, who are dealing with significant financial concerns with any cancer treatment.
Working with physicians to understand the benefits of early genomic testing, and how those results might indicate better outcomes with a different drug therapy, or qualify their patient for a specific clinical trial directed at their genomic type, can be a substantial benefit to Life Sciences clinical development teams.
With the advances in data extraction and analysis, Life Sciences companies can more easily identify practices that treat patients with niche cancers, using that information to educate physicians on the benefits of early genomic testing – like opportunities for clinical trials, and ensuring the physician is using the most appropriate immune-oncology products.