West Cancer Center to get more precision treatment options from Foundation Medicine-OneOncology initiative
By Jason Bolton – Data Editor, Memphis Business Journal
Aug 21, 2020, 8:27am EDT
A new partnership will add more genetic biodata to inform West Cancer Center’s personalized cancer treatment arsenal.
OneOncology and Foundation Medicine Inc. — a molecular information company — announced Aug. 17 a joint initiative allowing for the expanded use in clinical practice of comprehensive genomic profiling (CGP) and related research.
West Cancer Center & Research Institute is a founding practice of OneOncology’s network of community cancer care practices.
“The majority of [cancer] patients are treated in a community setting, and through this partnership, we are excited to provide more oncologists with high-quality tools to help inform their treatment decisions,” Cindy Perettie, CEO of Foundation Medicine, said in a release.
West’s chairman, Dr. Kurt Tauer, said Foundation Medicine is a leader in the molecular testing laboratory sector. He believes the new initiative has direct benefits for the Memphians that West Cancer Center treats.
“We have a voice at the table for what we need for our patients in Memphis,” Tauer said.
Foundation Medicine will have access to patient samples from West and OneOncology to learn from. Advancing research and new approaches to clinical trial design is another facet of the partnership.
Dr. Lee Schwartzberg, chief medical officer of OneOncology and chief medical director of West, has led the push into molecular medicine, even before West joined the network.
Tauer said West was one of the first practices in the U.S. to have a molecular tumor board, due to Schwartzberg’s efforts. That board was established nearly four years ago to explore new treatment options for cancer patients in Memphis.
“We don’t want patients to have to go to MD Anderson in Houston or Sloan Kettering in New York to get this kind of sophisticated treatment,” Tauer said. “We want them to stay right here in Memphis.”
Tauer said using genetic information for treatments is becoming the standard of care for sophisticated oncology practices — specifically in the area of cancer that has metastasized.
“It’s become increasingly important in cancer that we understand the molecular basis of the disease,” Tauer said. “Many of our new drugs are focused on targeted therapies.”
For instance, the survival rate for a certain type of metastatic lung cancer was 5%-10% two years after diagnosis, he said. Oncologists can now order a molecular analysis and determine if the cancer would be eligible for immunotherapy based on genetic findings.
If treated with targeted immunotherapy, that type of metastatic lung cancer now has about a 40% survival rate.
West Cancer Center treats about 500 patients a day, and about a third of those have metastatic cancer, Tauer said. Initially, those with metastatic cancer will benefit the most from the partnership with Foundation Medicine.
But, the genetic workup of the molecular processes behind a patient’s cancer diagnosis is becoming increasingly as routine as a biopsy in oncology.
Crucially, payment for the genetic tests is becoming mainstream, as well.
Genomic profiles from Foundation Medicine are covered by Medicare and private insurance carriers. OneOncology and Foundation Medicine work with uninsured patients to help with access to the testing technology.
“This is an operational implementation of very exciting scientific breakthroughs. That is what this relationship means,” Tauer said. “It’s making exotic science [into] everyday medicine.”