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GE Healthcare, VUMC to Develop Cancer Diagnostic Tools

By Dipo Olowookere

A five-year partnership has been entered into between GE Healthcare and Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).

The collaboration is to enable safer and more precise cancer immunotherapies, with the development of multiple diagnostic tools to help predict both the efficacy of an immunotherapy treatment and its adverse effects for a specific patient before the therapy is administered.

This would allow physicians to better target immunotherapies to the right patients and avoid potentially damaging, ineffective and costly courses of treatments.

Immunotherapies use the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells and can be more effective than traditional treatments, but response rates are often low and side effects can be severe.

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GE Healthcare and VUMC will retrospectively analyse and correlate the immunotherapy treatment response of thousands of VUMC cancer patients, with their anonymised demographic, genomic, tumour, cellular, proteomic and imaging data. They will then develop AI-powered apps that draw on this data to help physicians identify the most suitable treatment for each individual patient.

Simultaneously, GE Healthcare and VUMC will develop new positron-emission tomography (PET) imaging tracers, which together with the apps, will help physicians to stratify cancer patients for clinical trials.

It currently takes an average of 12 years and costs almost $2 billion to bring a drug to market. In many cases, inappropriate patients are recruited to participate in immunotherapy trials, incurring unnecessary expense and slowing down approvals of new therapies.

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It is hoped that the PET tracers will ultimately also be used to monitor the efficacy of immunotherapies in everyday practice.

“Immunotherapy offers tremendous promise but given the current unpredictability of some patients’ reactions to treatments, it is also associated with increased morbidity and cost. This partnership provides the opportunity to leverage strengths of both of our organizations to further personalize cancer care by creating new tools that allow clinicians to more accurately predict how patients will respond to a specific therapy,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

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“GE Healthcare and Vanderbilt will combine their data science, genomic, imaging and cellular analysis capabilities to help improve clinical decision making. This partnership is a great example of the increasing convergence of the tools, technologies and data used by therapy innovators and healthcare providers,” said Kieran Murphy, President and Chief Executive Officer, GE Healthcare.

GE Healthcare and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, a world-renowned stem cell transplant facility, will also collaborate on methods to improve productivity, efficiency and cost of stem cell transplant processing operations by automating processes, digitizing workflows, improving throughput and industrializing operations. The first analytics application prototype will be available by the end of 2019 and the PET tracer proof-of-concept by the end of 2020.

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Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

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