The theme of this year’s World Cancer Day held on 4th February of “We can. I can.” aimed to reinforce the public message that all individuals and groups can play their part in reducing the global burden of cancer. Indeed in recent years many events have involved collaborations between traditional drug developers, cancer treatment professionals and those of varying disciplines. Examples include the IBM Watson supercomputer which is helping physicians make treatment decisions and the development of other databases such as ASCO’s CancerLinQ which assists oncologists in monitoring and analyzing patient data.
According to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, the healthcare industry is set to continue this approach in 2018 with similar events taking place signifying exciting advances in cancer research and treatment.
In order to effectively fight the “War on Cancer” or achieve the * Cancer Moonshot, collaborations between academia and the pharmaceutical industry are important, but so are those that are interdisciplinary in nature, such as companies involved in cognitive computing and those developing various types of healthcare software and other digital medicine tools.
New tools that were introduced over the past few years or will be introduced later in 2018 will continue to gain momentum and utility in diagnosing and treating cancer, including precision medicine, artificial intelligence to aid in selecting the most appropriate treatments for patients, and the use of digital technology for the reporting of information by patients during treatment.
Fern Barkalow, PhD, Oncology and Hematology Director at GlobalData commented: ‘‘These approaches could not come at a better time, as the global incidence of many cancers is still quite high. Additionally, many cancer types continue to have areas of high unmet need despite the launch of more effective and safer drug therapies for various diseases.‘’
In just the first month of 2018, a search of GlobalData’s Healthcare Intelligence Center yielded over 800 clinical trials in the top ten locations worldwide, with half of these occurring in the US alone.
The top oncology diseases being enrolled into these trials represent a mixture of more prevalent cancers, such as breast cancer (22%) and non-small cell lung cancer (18%), with rarer forms of cancer that are characterized by greater levels of unmet needs, such as gastric cancer (10%), acute myelocytic leukemia (8%), and ovarian cancer (6%).
Dr Barkalow continued, ‘‘The inclusion of cancers for which there are already fairly good existing treatments and large pipelines of drugs in development, as well as those diseases for which there are not many approved therapies, indicates a good balance for cancer clinical research in terms of disease. If this trend continues, 2018 should see clinical trials results in cancers of both categories.’’
In 2017, the results of a landmark digital medicine trial were published in the medical journal JAMA. The research reported that patients with solid tumors enrolled in a large, randomized study conducted at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, who had access to a web-based tool to report events in real time to physicians, demonstrated a fairly large increase in overall survival compared to those who were treated with the same drug but did not report symptoms in real time.
Dr Barkalow added, ‘‘If these results are seen in further clinical trial testing in 2018, then we believe that they could eventually trigger significant changes in the ways in which cancer patients are treated in routine practice.’’
Clinical trials remain the mainstay of drug testing and enable developers to gather the evidence needed to support approval by various regulatory agencies; however, these trials contribute to a major cost of drug development. GlobalData forecasts that if drug developers start embracing the new digital advances in the coming year, this will facilitate changes in clinical trial design and outcomes, which in turn will lead to streamlined development and reduce drug development costs.
Dr Barkalow concludes, ‘’The stage is set in 2018 for digital medicine technology to have a significant impact on the cancer landscape by transforming the way cancer drugs are developed and tested for approval, as well as the ways in which cancer patients are treated during routine practice.’’
GlobalData (2018). ‘Expert Insight: Oncology Digital Medicine Advances in 2017: From Selection of Treatments to the Prospect of Influencing Outcomes.’
Published January 2018, GDHC1557EI
* The ‘Cancer Moonshot’ aims to accelerate cancer research by making more therapies available to more patients, while also improving the ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage.