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Precision Medicine to Drastically Improve Cancer Treatment

DNA sequencing and precision medicine are forever changing cancer treatment. With its new end-to-end offering, TreatmentMAP, Molecular Health is helping doctors determine the best treatments for specific instances of cancer.

At SAPPHIRE NOW 2015, I had the pleasure of talking with Mark Rodgers, North American Director of Corporate Communications and Public Relations, and Alexander Picker, EVP Product Management, both from Molecular Health. Speaking to them only strengthened my passion for healthcare and my belief that advanced technology can fix a struggling industry.

Changing the way doctors approach cancer

In 2000, for the first time, doctors read all 3.4 billion DNA pairs in the human genome. This insight into the complete genetic blueprint for building a human being opened the door to new and more-effective treatments for diseases like cancer. However, back then, this process of genetic sequencing was costly and time consuming.

In 2014, Molecular Health invented its end-to-end offering TreatmentMAP TM, which runs on the SAP HANA platform. It translates the language of genes into actionable information that doctors and patients can use to make informed decisions about cancer care.

Now, thanks to Molecular Health, information on a person's complete genomic sequence can be read relatively cost-effectively and in just a few days.

Turning information into action

As Rodgers and Picker explained, the same cancer treatment that saves one person may be toxic to the health of another. Each case of cancer is unique, and it's very difficult to determine what treatments will have negative side effects on patients and what will work well. There's no one-size-fits-all treatment.

With precision medicine, or the practice of analyzing existing treatments to see which is best equipped to tackle a particular case of cancer, Molecular Health is on the forefront of a paradigm shift that can radically improve the prevention and treatment of cancer.

How the analysis works

To start the process, a doctor sends a tissue sample from a patient's tumor to the Molecular Health laboratory. The tissue sample contains both cancerous cell material and healthy cell material from the patient.

At the lab, using TreatmentMAP TM, the sample is genetically analyzed and the cancerous genome sequence is compared to the patient's healthy genome sequence. Then TreatmentMAPTM compares the patient's genetic material to the massive amount of available research and clinical information that Molecular Health has been collecting over the past 10 years on biomedical knowledge. This data pool contains information from over 23 million publications, hundreds of cancer indicators, 37,000 drugs, more than 90,000 clinical studies, and more.

After a few hours, the treatment options for the patient are identified, and a specially certified oncologist uses TreatmentMAP TM to analyze the results and prepare a report for the treating physician. This report contains effective and ineffective treatment methods for this particular instance of cancer, as well as any risks of side effects or toxicity.

It takes about two weeks total from when the physician originally sends out the patient's sample to when the physician receives the TreatmentMAP TM report. Physicians can then view the best treatments that exist for that particular patient's instance of cancer, being sure to avoid any treatment that may be harmful to the patient.

"COPE"ing with cancer

SAP and Molecular Health have teamed to provide SAP employees with the Corporate Oncology Program for Employees (COPE). Through COPE, Molecular Health partners with corporations to provide employees diagnosed with cancer access to TreatmentMAP TM. The individual tumor analysis and interpretation is part of the company's benefits package.

SAP was the first company to ever offer COPE to its employees.

Watch SAP's Franz Deitering as he explains his journey with COPE.

COPE has already been rolled out in Germany and the United States. Soon it will be available for Canadian employees, and later more countries will be included in the program.

Through COPE, SAP hopes to inspire wider adoption of similar programs among other companies and to make this technology available to as many people as possible.

Future goals

In the future, Molecular Health aims to play a bigger role in drug evaluation and safety for cancer patients. In addition, the organization's main goal is to expand beyond the treatment of cancer and explore the treatment of other diseases, as well as expand the TreatmentMAP TM approach to cover the complete patient lifestyle.

Molecular Health wants to target healthy patients and work toward early identification and disease prevention. The company wants to make its technology directly available to the consumer.

Counting our blessings

A cancer diagnosis is very hard. However, knowing that my company will cover the cost of tumor analysis for each and every employee, helping doctors make the best treatment decisions for each individual, makes me feel very fortunate.

Rodgers and Picker share in my pride and appreciation for our employers. Both told me their jobs are extremely rewarding. They are part of an organization that directly improves people's lives and has completely reinvented the way cancer is treated.

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This story was originally posted to SCN in SAP Business Trends.

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