By Thomas Brown, M.D., executive director of the Swedish Cancer Institute, and co-chairman of the Providence Health & Services Personalized Medicine Program
Cancer is personal. Almost all of us and millions of people around the world have been touched by it, personally, or through a family member or friend. Now the nation is embarking on the Cancer Moonshot, a concerted mission to find a cure for a disease that kills nearly 600,000 Americans every year. The goal: to make a decade’s worth of advances against cancer in five years.
Vice President Biden leads historic summit
In June, Vice President Joe Biden joined more than 400 researchers, cancer specialists and data and technology experts in Washington, D.C., for the Cancer Moonshot summit. It was the first time a group this expansive and diverse has met under a government charge to accelerate the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and curing of cancer.
I attended the summit along with other cancer leaders from Seattle, including Lee Hood, M.D., from the Institute for Systems Biology; Gary Gilliland, M.D., Ph.D., from Fred Hutch; and Judith Salerno, M.D., M.S., from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
The promise of personalized medicine
Swedish Cancer Institute and Providence Health & Services are responding to the moonshot challenge by helping build a medical database that we will use to customize cancer treatment for each patient.
We have already begun to do this at SCI and Providence by studying our patients’ tumors using targeted sequencing to search for mutations within DNA. Our specialists personalize cancer care by using mutation profiles to prioritize standard therapies, and to help match patients for treatment in appropriate clinical trials.
How we can use data to fight cancer
Now, Swedish and Providence are going a step further. We have formed the Oncology Precision Network (OPeN) with Intermountain Healthcare and the Stanford Cancer Institute.
This network will analyze data across 11 states, 79 hospitals and 800 clinics to help us provide even more precise care based on the biological features of both the patient and his or her unique cancer.
Just as crucial, this data will help us match patients to clinical trials involving new therapies most likely to fight their type of cancer. SCI is one of the largest clinical-trial sites in the West, so we are poised to help many patients in this area.
Aiming for more breakthroughs
Trials lead to some of the most significant advances in cancer treatment. They also can be a lifeline for patients who have already tried conventional therapy or have a type of cancer with limited treatment options.
With the creation of the Oncology Precision Network, Swedish Cancer Institute and Providence hope to make significant contributions to the Cancer Moonshot.
You can learn more about personalized medicine at Swedish here. To learn more about cancer research at Providence Health & Services go here.