Personalized Cancer Treatments Approach Tipping Point

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , September 27, 2012

Success key No. 2: Cooperative ventures
The Moffitt Cancer Center's Total Cancer Care program measures the expression of approximately 30,000 genes that make up a tumor to find the unique genetic fingerprint for each person. It has teamed up with the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and Florida Hospital to initiate medical research and clinical care in personalized medicine. In addition, it is forming relationships with as many as 15 community hospitals in 10 states in a consortium also designed to advance personalized medicine.

In February, Moffitt, Florida Hospital, and Sanford-Burnham announced collaboration on the Personalized Medicine Partnership of Florida. The partners were brought together to deliver what they described as the "complementary strengths" of the various organizations: Florida Hospital's large population, Sanford-Burnham's fundamental research expertise and technology platforms, and Moffitt's biospecimen bank, data warehouse, and personalized medicine capabilities, says Dalton, Moffitt's director.

While creating the Personalized Medicine Institute, Moffitt also developed a research arm, a for-profit biotechnology subsidiary called M2Gen, which serves as a repository where research tissues can be stored for long-term use. For an array of clinical trials in personalized medicine, Moffitt has enrolled at least 90,000 people in the program. It also has built an informatics platform "that allows us to categorize the tumors' genetic and genomic profiles," Dalton adds, referring to the collection of data focusing on patients' genetic makeup. "None of that existed when we started this. The capacity didn't exist."

To date, the center has collected 32,500 tumors and profiled 16,000 of those tumors.

While storing data to be analyzed by researchers for potential long-term cancer care, Moffitt also has begun to focus on cancer patients who relapsed, Dalton says. "We are working to define the best therapy for these, including clinical trials for these patients," he says.

Of the patients who have been invited into Moffitt's Total Cancer Care program, most accepted the offer to be included in personalized medicine, according to Dalton.

In developing the cancer care protocol, Moffitt formed a patient advocacy and ethics council to assist, especially for any questions related to personalized medicine. As part of that, Moffitt developed a patient portal to the data warehouse that provides patients with their own medical histories, data, and other significant information, Dalton says. Eventually, the portal also will be used to enable patients to make informed decisions.


"What makes the Total Cancer Care study more than just a repository and tissue bank," Moffitt stated in its annual report, which touched on its personalized medicine program, "is the effort to integrate the collection, profiling, analysis, and long-term storage of biological samples with other patient information, all gathered on a large ongoing scale with active follow-up for the rest of the patient's life." The report also noted that the National Cancer Institute awarded Moffitt a Specialized Programs of Research Excellence Grant for lung cancers. The report states that it "involves basing the selection of treatment and molecular and genetic characteristics of tumors using gene therapy."

By working with other hospitals, Moffitt is developing a "hub and spoke" model for improved personalized medicine care throughout the region, says Dalton. The hospital has a five-year plan "involving many other sites and partners. Our hope is to partner with other National Cancer Institute–designated cancer centers," he says.

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