In the news the other day we saw that RainTree Oncology Services has formed a strategic alliance with Life Technologies Corporation. In this alliance, RainTree and Life Technologies plan to make the latest advances in molecular testing available to a larger patient market by creating a more efficient protocol for enrolling patients into clinical trials for new targeted therapies.
Genetic profiling is at the core of personalized medicine. First, the cancer tissue is tested for genetic mutations, after which a molecular profile of the patient can be created. Following that an individualized treatment plan based on the patient’s profile may be determined. The day is fast approaching when the genetic profile of a patient’s tumor will be just as important (or perhaps even more important) as the patient’s cancer type in determining treatment algorithms.
As more information about cancer is gleaned, however, the more complex this disease gets. Is genetic profiling "nice to have" or "need to have"? Are oncologists ready to make treatment decisions based on genetic hunches, or is the data ready for prime time? The recent announcement from RainTree Oncology that they have formed a strategic alliance with Life Technologies is evidence that the race to find clinical utility in genetic profiling on both a patient’s tumor and the patient is rounding the first bend.
RainTree, more commonly known as a GPO for oral cancer agents, will partner with Life Technologies (who will own a CLIA certified lab), and send cancer tissue from the patients of over 600 oncologists for high-throughput, next-generation sequencing (HT-NGS), thus creating the potential to enhance the understanding of the clinical utility of genetic profiles. Because of the volume of tissue information RainTree can provide, they may be in a position to take a leadership role in cancer genomics.
Jeff Patton, MD, CMO of RainTree, says that his goal is to “accelerate adoption of genomic medicine”. This goal can be realized in three ways:
Patton envisions a day when genomic panels developed (in part) from the genetic information provided by the RainTree network could be incorporated into clinical pathways helping to direct treatment algorithms.
From a purely business standpoint, there are issues. For one, payers don’t necessarily reimburse for all this testing. At a recent NCCN conference, Lee Newcomer, MD, Vice President at UnitedHealthcare stated, “just because we can test for 200 mutations doesn’t mean we should.”
Additionally, there is a well-funded behemoth out there called Foundation Medicine that has an early jump on genetic profiling and a strategic partnership with another behemoth called Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive, and in fact having a community-based opportunity for genetic profiling may be a practical answer for the majority of cancer patients out there.
As research and clinical evolution in cancer treatments shift toward personalized medicine, partnerships in clinical utility are being created. RainTree is embracing the trend quickly, and moving strategically to stay ahead of the pack.