computer-based platform which looks to greatly speed up genetic analysis of
tumours has been unveiled in the USA. Currently such analysis can take up to
eight weeks; the new platform promises to deliver results in just 47 seconds.
there is some debate as to whether faster DNA analysis will lead to improved
cancer care, over the last 12 months more
than 2,000 cancer clinics - representing 8,000 oncologists and nurses - have
successfully installed and used a major component of the new platform.
computer system is the result of a partnership between several American
healthcare companies including healthcare insurers Blue Shield and the Chan
Soon-Shiong Institute for Advanced Health, an organisation founded by Dr
Patrick Soon-Shiong, a former surgeon turned billionaire healthcare
first time oncologists can compare virtually every known treatment option on
the basis of genetics, risk and cost before treatment begins', declares a statement
from the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute.
The network links cancer clinics across the USA
and doctors using the system will help improve the database by sharing DNA
analyses and other patient information. The companies promoting the network say
that evaluating a cancer's molecular pathways earlier on means that doctors can
more easily select appropriate therapies for patients.
network looks to make good on one of the earliest promises of personalised cancer
medicine - that it will enable treatment selection on the grounds of biological
characteristics as much as anatomical location. 'A patient with breast cancer
could benefit from the positive results discovered from a patient with lung
cancer, if the underlying molecular pathways involving both cancers were the
same', claims the statement.
Blue Shield's president and soon-to-be chief executive, told the Los Angeles
Times that 'considerable time and money is spent now on
ineffective cancer treatments'. He said that the new system can 'help identify
more accurately the proper diagnosis and most effective treatment options by
cross-checking medical databases, algorithms, and the patient's own genetic
information in some cases'.
arrival of the new system has not met with universal acclaim. Dr Michael Mann, associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, described as a
'cancer genetics expert' by Fox News told the news channel: 'It's
completely wrong to say that patients are being harmed because genomic analyses
are too slow. You can get these tests back in a week, which is plenty of time
for expeditious patient care'.
'It's misleading to imply that increasing the
speed at which information becomes available to a clinician will improve
outcomes for cancer patients'.