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Why precision medicines for oncology demands precision engagement

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The speed of scientific breakthroughs in precision medicine is leading to groundbreaking treatments, particularly in oncology and rare diseases. More than 85 percent of the oncology market is now focused on targeted therapies and the number of new oncology therapeutics in development in the U.S. alone has risen by 34 percent since 2015.  Oncology is an important beachhead for precision medicine due to efforts to understand how unique each patient is and how much the same disease can vary from patient to patient or over time within the same patient.

Innovation in this area has created an explosion of scientific information. In addition to data from clinical studies, real-world patient information is also growing rapidly in both volume and importance. For example, the responses of patient sub-populations, patient adherence data, preferences with treatment regimens, and other observations are vital for the larger understanding of precision medicine adoption, use, and optimization for better outcomes.

Life sciences companies are overwhelmed with the volume of information and data available as they aim to keep oncologists up to date on new therapies, while also bring patient-reported information back to their organizations to inform ongoing scientific progress. Organizations that establish a more efficient, bi-directional communication model with care teams will be better positioned to succeed today.

Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs), who serve as the bridge between top doctors and companies, must communicate detailed information in ways that best fit experts’ needs. MSLs are important in helping experts balance learning with patient care as the average physician must read about 29 hours per day just to keep up to date with new medical research, according to the Journal for European Society of Medical Oncology.

“Back in the 1980s, medical data and evidence was doubling every seven years but by 2020, it will  double every 73 days,” said Andrew W. Pippas, MD, medical director for John B Amos Cancer Center in Columbus, Goergia. Dr. Pippas is also the oncology principal investigator at IACT Health and received Vitals’ Patients’ Choice award 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Dr. Pippas continued, “It’s difficult to keep pace, yet we recognize how important it is to stay current with the latest therapeutic innovations. Rather than more information, we need relevant information delivered more conveniently. Companies that leverage new digital technologies to share information via mobile device, for instance, become more valuable partners.”

Closing the Gap between Research and Real Life
Life sciences companies need a better way to identify leading scientific experts in oncology as well as enable ongoing collaboration with the broader care team, which is equally important. Specifically, companies need to redefine how they push information to key experts as much as how they pull insights from clinicians. In this new model, business processes and technology must be calibrated for efficient multi-directional information exchange between all stakeholders.

“In oncology, we see patients once a week or even every day so we really get to know them well, which is different than with a surgical patient, for instance. Our patients develop a comfort level with us and feel more willing to share their therapy experience so we can improve care,” said Carolyn Smith, RN and part of the oncology team at Bryn Mawr Medical Specialists. “Given the opportunity, we can relay that depth of patient information directly to MSLs at pharma companies so the valuable cycle of learning-enhancing-learning continues and outcomes improve.”

New cloud-based technologies allow life sciences companies, treatment teams, and leading experts to work more collaboratively, narrowing the gap between the pharmaceutical company developing drugs and the caregivers seeing patients in the office for more valuable partnerships centered on outcomes.

Here are three ways technology brings industry and clinicians together:

  1. Enabling bidirectional information sharing

Today more than ever before, scientific experts working with patients need easy-to-consume, real-time information in the context of the current treatment landscape. Life sciences companies, too, need knowledge from clinicians to help inform emerging and future therapeutics – this is particularly true for rare disease treatments since there is often a lack of historical data. It’s a two-way street to treatment.

This is especially important as more precision medicines receive expedited review from global regulatory agencies. In the U.S., for example, the FDA now offers four different types of accelerated review programs and of the 25 new personalized medicines approved in 2018, 24 were subject to some form of expedited FDA review, per the Personalized Medicine Coalition. Although these medicines have been tested for safety and efficacy, having less time in a controlled clinical trial setting means that sponsoring companies must rely on real-world evidence to understand the nuances of optimal use. For example, patient sub-populations who have varying responses from the norm, optimal treatment sequencing, and other insights can provide information that’s critical to ongoing learnings and drug development.

Achieving this level of collaboration at scale has been difficult in a broader, global environment. How can companies ensure they are reaching the right experts with the right information at the right time? More specifically, what nuances can be gleaned from pathologists or others on the treatment team that might lead to an earlier identification of eligible patients? What are the best strategies for combating patient tolerability? New technologies help answer these questions by enabling life sciences companies to engage in ongoing, bidirectional digital communication with key experts.

These technologies also often provide analytics engines to uncover real-word insights from the broad base of experts in the field. These inform life sciences companies for continued product development while also support the creation and delivery of increasingly relevant information to experts for better customer engagement.

  1. Tailoring for individual needs and preferences

Cloud-based technologies can help life sciences companies meet busy experts wherever they may be. For example, some solutions enable various forms of remote engagement so physicians don’t have to leave the office. Modern content management and customer relationship management solutions enhanced with analytics tools also help teams more efficiently deliver information that is tailored for each individual’s unique role on the patient’s treatment team.

These technologies can also help MSLs efficiently capture insights from experts that can be combined with other important data sets like sales data, profile information, and claims data in a data warehouse that will organize it for advanced analysis.

Finally, advanced data technology enables companies to extend engagement beyond the expert oncologist leading the treatment team. Diagnostic and research scientists, nurses, nutritionists, pathologists, health economics experts, and other caregivers need different information that allows each to drive better patient outcomes. New data solutions unlock the full range of experts involved in patient care, and offer both current and historical background to provide a full understanding of how to align each caregiver’s interest with the company’s offerings and educational opportunities.

  1. Getting more out of data for future success

We live in the era of big data, and detailed analysis of this ever-expanding volume of information is vital for advancing precision medicine. New data sets are growing in size and importance. The Cancer Genome Atlas, for instance, catalogs the genetic mutations responsible for cancer and has generated multidimensional maps of genomic changes in more than 30 cancer types. Continued growth will require ongoing collaboration, as well as access to larger, more complete and accurate data sets for targeting and benchmarking.

Jeremy Schafer, Ph.D., senior VP for the Access Experience Team at Precision for Value, said, “As we continue to move into a value-based world, the requests for data are likely to increase. The biggest challenge the market runs into is data. Capturing relevant data and being able to report it is the key factor.”

In order to get more out of data, companies need to find efficient ways to aggregate, organize, and analyze it to identify real insights. Artificial Intelligence (AI) engines can help. As AI becomes embedded in more technologies, data analysis will become faster and yield the information we are seeking as well as insights we did not know we were looking for initially. AI will look across trial data, scientific literature, real-world patient records, and other information to identify patterns and allow teams to uncover potential new treatments for specific cancers and individual patient populations.

Prepared with better information, AI will also enable companies to connect with oncologists and other key experts in a more relevant way for intelligent engagement throughout the patient’s treatment journey. Eventually, it will allow companies to align stakeholders with one another as precisely as genetic biomarkers are aligned with precision treatment.

“AI is incredibly exciting, particularly in terms of its promise to help industry uncover new precision treatments for cancers and rare diseases faster,” explained Dr. Pippas. “But, it also presents opportunities for industry to work with physicians more effectively. Pharmaceutical companies can start to align with us more closely so that these partnerships continue to improve. Everyone benefits.”

Collaboration in the Cloud

Precision medicine, particularly in areas such as oncology, is transforming the treatment landscape and increasing the length and quality of patient lives. However, the volume and complexity of available data makes it challenging for treatment teams and life sciences companies to share information efficiently. Building seamless channels for continuous collaboration will drive mutually valuable relationships and ensure better patient outcomes. New technologies that include advanced analytics functionality will underpin this new model, providing a platform for innovation that transforms engagement, deepens insight, and ensures realization of precision medicine’s full potential not just in oncology but also in non-oncologic diseases including immunological, genetic, and rare diseases.

Photo: shylendrahoode, Getty Images

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