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Major pharmaceutical companies and insurers announced earlier this week that they would work together to advance combination drugs and genome sequencing for patients with cancer.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers Celgene and Amgen, along with several biotech companies, major academic cancer centers and community oncologists launched The National Immunotherapy Coalition (NIC) on Monday. Partnering with Independence Blue Cross and Bank of America, one of the largest self-insured companies in the U.S., the Coalition’s focus is to “accelerate the potential of combination immunotherapies as the next generation standard of care in patients with cancer”, according to a statement from NIC.
Three combination therapy drugs, Keytruda, Opdivo and Yervoy, have already resulted in improvements and longer life spans in some cancer patients.
The new Coalition will make possible access to over 60 novel and approved agents under exploration in the war against cancer. It will also enable rapid testing of novel immunotherapy combination protocols, forming the basis of The Cancer MoonShot 2020. The NIC will design, initiate and complete randomized clinical trials in cancer patients with cancer at all stages of disease in up to 20 tumor types in as many as 20,000 patients by the year 2020.
“The era of immunotherapy has taken the oncology world by storm. For the first time in 40 years, there is a glimmer that we may be able to win this war against cancer,” said Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD, founder and CEO of NantWorks and the Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine.
If pharmaceutical manufacturers and biotech companies follow the current path of drug development, it may take 40 or 50 years “before we have worked out the right cocktail combination and countless lives will be lost as a result of this inefficiency,” Soon-Shiong added.
To that end, he QUILT (QUantitative Integrative Lifelong Trial) program is designed to harness and orchestrate all the elements of the immune system by testing novel combinations of vaccines, cell-based immunotherapy, metronomic chemotherapy, low dose radiotherapy and immunomodulators in patients who have undergone next generation whole genome, transcriptome and quantitative proteomic analysis. NIC’s goal is to achieve “durable, long-lasting remission for patients with cancer”.
Meanwhile, Independence Blue Cross’s coverage of whole genome transcriptomic tests in patients receiving immunotherapy “is a landmark milestone in moving precision medicine in oncology from the bench to the bedside,” Dr. Soon-Shiong said. “We are in discussions with the rest of the insurance industry, including Blue Cross on a national basis, to encourage the industry to follow Independence’s lead.”
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