No one wants to hear the words, “you have colon cancer.” For patients diagnosed with an advanced form of the disease, these words can be particularly devastating. The five-year survival rate can be a little as 6 percent. The top-of-mind question becomes, “Which treatment or clinical trial will work for me?”
That’s why the College of American Pathologists (CAP) has partnered with CollabRx to provide patients with late stage colon cancer access to cutting-edge information that could change their lives. Patients can now access the recently released Therapy Finder – Colorectal Cancer application (app) through the College’s website and patient portal, MyBiopsy.org, to find personalized information on cancer therapies. Visitors to the sites also can access the CollabRx Therapy Finder apps for lung and skin cancer.
“With advances in genomics, we now have a greater understanding of the genetic profile of a patient’s tumor and know that cancer is no longer a one size fits all disease,” said Stanley J. Robboy, M.D., FCAP, president of the CAP and pathology professor and vice chair for Faculty Affairs at Duke University in Durham, N.C. “Our partnership with CollabRx will put this valuable information into the hands of patients and hopefully lead to better patient outcomes.”
Co-founded by Marty Tenenbaum, a survivor of metastatic melanoma, CollabRx marries information technology with the scientific expertise of the nation’s top oncologists and pathologists, the physicians who diagnose cancer. Its initial products are Therapy Finder apps which are dynamically updated online resources that enable physicians and patients to identify diagnostic tests and clinical trials associated with therapies that “target” the unique genetic profiles of patients’ tumors.
“We developed the apps so patients can seek optimal treatments, not based on their zip codes, but on the molecular zip codes of their tumors,” said James M. Karis, chief executive officer of CollabRx. “We’re honored to have the opportunity to tap into the scientific expertise and knowledge base offered by the CAP pathologist members and hope to partner with the College again as we develop new apps.”
CollabRx apps allow users to input information about their disease─including the stage, treatment history, status of genetic mutations known to have implications for treatment, and sites of metastasis, if any. It then provides personalized therapy-related options, based on peer-reviewed medical and scientific content that may be of use to the patient and physician, such as identification of potential drugs, diagnostics, and clinical trials that may be useful in the specific form of colorectal cancer selected.
“Cancer patients frequently have limited knowledge of the growing number of medical tests and therapies available and relevant to them,” said Charles Roussel, chief executive officer for the CAP, whose life also has been touched by cancer. “Our collaboration with CollabRx helps us deliver on our mission to serve patients and fosters greater communication between patients and physicians which is vital to successful treatment.”
The app content is overseen by Editor-in-Chief George Lundberg, MD, FCAP, a pathologist and former editor-in-chief of WebMD’s online professional publications, Medscape and e-Medicine. A team of CollabRx scientists and independent cancer experts continually monitor the scientific literature to stay abreast of new developments in the field to keep the content up-to-date. The Therapy Finder – Colorectal Cancer app is overseen by Heinz-Josef Lenz, M.D., a professor in the Department of Medicine, associate director of Clinical Research, and co-director of the Center for Molecular Pathways and Drug Discovery at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.
“The Therapy Finder – Colorectal Cancer app is a novel and much needed educational resource that provides cancer patients and physicians access to complex and highly valuable information about how tumor genetics can be used to guide through clinical trials and treatment options. This is one of the first sites which uses a cutting-edge approach for biomarker driven chemotherapy,” said Dr. Lenz, lead clinical advisor to the Therapy Finder – Colorectal Cancer app.
Dr. Lenz chairs an editorial board that includes, among other prominent clinician researchers, Wells Messersmith, M.D., co-leader of the Developmental Therapeutics Program at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.
“This online and freely accessible tool will support and enable patient empowerment, engagement, and participation in discussing and creating a personalized cancer treatment plan that leverages the unique aspects of a patient’s medical history and tumor genetic profile whenever possible,” adds Dr. Wells Messersmith, a clinical advisor to the Therapy Finder – Colorectal Cancer app.
Pathologists developed the CAP’s award-winning patient portal, MyBiopsy.org, where the Therapy Finder apps are located. The site offers credible information and resources on more than 40 different cancers and cancer—related diseases-including colon, lung, and skin cancer—to help cancer patients and their loved ones better understand their diagnoses. Visitors to the site also can find tips on how to read a pathology report and stories from cancer survivors.
“Pathologists are gathering and interpreting molecular diagnostic information which has a significant clinical impact to patients and their oncologists,” said Douglas Blayney, MD, medical director, Stanford Cancer Institute, Stanford, Calif., member of CollabRx editorial advisory board, and former president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). “The partnership with the CAP demonstrates another example of the collaboration between pathologists and oncologists to empower patients with resources to make informed decisions about their health.”