People have always been at the centre of healthcare: people who deliver care, people who receive care, and people who invest in care. Yet today, new technology is working alongside people like never before in the fight against cancer and other diseases.

It is estimated that one in every two people in the UK will develop cancer during their lifetime1, which amounts to over 2.5 million people currently receiving cancer care2. People living with cancer deserve the best possible diagnosis and treatment. This can be best delivered by combining the expertise of healthcare professionals with technological advancements.

Supporting decision-making for cancer patients

Roche is proud to lead the way in advancing healthcare in the UK with a number of ground-breaking initiatives. The first is looking at new ways of supporting decision-making surrounding treatment options for cancer patients – by bringing together all of the information and data - such as medical history, type of tumour, radiology images, microscope slide images and pathology reports – that is needed to make the best possible decision. The cloud-based software solution that aggregate all the relevant patient data from multiple sources onto one dashboard. 

Digitalising cancer diagnosis 

Most suspected cases of cancer are confirmed by looking down a microscope at a biopsy “piece of tissue” or a blood sample taken from the patient. This normally takes place in the hospital pathology laboratory and the Royal College of Pathologists estimates that around 20 million microscope slides are examined each year in the UK3. This is largely a manual process, but Roche is working in partnership with a number of organisations, including the Government’s Office for Life Sciences, to digitalise the whole process so that eventually, with the help of artificial intelligence, a machine or computer will be able to interpret the majority of results, leaving the pathologist to focus on the more complex cases. Not only will this lead to more efficient and effective ways of working, but the patient may benefit from a faster diagnosis. 

Screening cancer DNA for mutations

Diagnosing cancer is just the start. Knowing the specific type of cancer that the patient has is key in deciding the best possible treatment options. Looking for changes or mutations in the cancer DNA (known as genomic analysis) provides doctors with invaluable information about the type of cancer, helping them to select the treatment that could provide the best outcome for the patient.

Advances in the speed and accuracy with which these changes in DNA can be detected have been rapidly developing in recent years and Roche has played a key role. Foundation Medicine is a genomic profiling service that combines the power of biology and technology to decode cancer.

This method of precision provides healthcare professionals with insight into how each person’s cancer differs at a molecular level, aiming to help match the genetic make-up of cancer with the treatments or trials that could provide the best outcome.

The potential benefits are vast. For patients, genomic profiling seeks to leave no stone unturned; creating choice and possibility for people who might have exhausted other options. It has the potential to ensure the right patients are treated with the right medicine and could reduce the use of less effective treatments, which can have significant impact on quality of life. 

For healthcare professionals and healthcare systems, Foundation Medicine aims to provide rational insight to manage cancer heterogeneity – providing data and insight to inform high quality and supporting more informed clinical-decision making. This could also mean reducing waste - and potentially costs - by matching treatments or trials that will most likely benefit patients, minimise the chances of side effects or the prescription of ineffective treatment. 

Foundation Medicine is being used in Roche’s own clinical trials to support the development of new, transformational medicines, which could represent significant breakthroughs for disease areas like rarer cancers, where small patient populations can often be excluded from trials of more common cancer types. In this setting, Roche will be able to use profiling to stratify and design smaller, more innovative trial structures to transform medicine discovery, with the ultimate goal to one day cure all forms of cancer.

References

  1. Cancer Research UK, “1 in 2 people in the UK will get cancer” (2015). Available at: https://bit.ly/1Dwprei. Accessed 30 May 2018.
  2. Macmillan Cancer Support, “Statistics fact sheet” (2017). Available at: https://bit.ly/2vIqiL9. Accessed 30 May 2018.
  3. Royal College of Pathologists, “Histopathology”. Available at: bitly/2ENpVDK. Accessed 17 January, 2018.