Posts

Curious Dr. George | Plumbing the Core and Nibbling at the Margins of Cancer

What Is a Cancer Commons Options Report?

Curious Dr. George
Cancer Commons Contributing Editor George Lundberg, MD, is the face and curator of this invitation-only column.

Lola Rahib, PhD Lead Scientist in Pancreatic Cancer at Cancer Commons

As a Cancer Commons Scientist, Lola Rahib, PhD, helps cancer patients and caregivers navigate treatment. Some of these patients receive a Cancer Commons Options Report. Here, our Curious Dr. George asks Dr. Rahib to share what goes into each Options Report.

Curious Dr. George: Cancer Commons provides advanced cancer patients who seek information with additional options for them to consider, all free of charge. What does a typical Cancer Commons Options Report consist of and look like?

The first page of the report contains information about the patient, including patient goals, molecular alterations, and a short case summary. Patient goals may include treatment and quality of life goals, ability to travel for treatment, and any other life goals or preferences the patient or their caregiver shares with us. The molecular alterations section is extracted from the patient’s molecular profiling report(s). Molecular profiling is an important consideration, as it can guide treatment. The short case summary gives a brief overview of the patient’s diagnosis and treatment history.

The report also contains a comprehensive, personalized case summary detailing the patient’s cancer history. The personalized case summary is created by reviewing the patient’s medical records, and includes information about the patient’s diagnosis, pathology, treatment history, treatment response, genomic sequencing, and other testing as available. This detailed summary is found at the end of the report and may be helpful for patients to take with them to appointments, especially if they are visiting with a new physician.

A sample Cancer Commons Options Report; click to see full report.

The detailed summary is used to generate personalized therapeutic options, including investigational therapies, clinical trials, off-label combinations, and testing modalities such as next generation sequencing, liquid biopsies, and other diagnostics. These options are presented in a table format with therapy descriptions and scientific rationale. Molecular targets for specific treatment options are indicated when appropriate.

Feedback and consensus from a Virtual Tumor Board is also provided when applicable. Currently, Cancer Commons has a Virtual Tumor Board program for brain and pancreatic cancer patients. The Virtual Tumor Board program allows Cancer Commons to present a patient’s case to nationally recognized experts. The panel performs a comprehensive review of the patient’s diagnosis, treatment history, molecular profiling, genetics, and other relevant information. Based on this information they discuss and provide feedback on treatment options including clinical trials, and any further diagnostics and evaluations. This feedback is provided in a summary along with the detailed treatment options.

The final decision regarding tests and treatments is always up to the patient and their care team. We encourage patients to discuss these options with their treating oncologist.

We capture decisions and rationales, and patients’ progress is monitored over time. This supports learnings and insights from every patient. Our artificial intelligence platform uses the Virtual Tumor Board’s recommendations, treatment decisions, and clinical results to get smarter. Our goal is to continuously learn from every patient’s experience and use that knowledge in real-time to help the next patient.

Dr. Rahib can be reached at lola.rahib@cancercommons.org.

***

Copyright: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Curious Dr. George | Plumbing the Core and Nibbling at the Margins of Cancer

What Sets Cancer Commons Apart?

Erika Vial Monteverdi, Executive Director of Cancer Commons

Cancer Commons is a patient-centric, nonprofit network of patients, physicians, and scientists that helps identify the best options for treating an individual’s cancer. Here, our Curious Dr. George asks executive director Erika Vial Monteverdi what sets Cancer Commons apart.

Q: As the Executive Director of Cancer Commons, how do you consider our approach to be uniquely different from that of many other organizations working to change the paradigm of cancer treatment?

A: Cancer Commons’ approach arises from the simple yet powerful fact that no two patients and their cancers are exactly alike. Supercomputers and “big data” present promising possibilities to advance cancer treatment. However, we believe that such efforts will fall short without also improving the use of existing information, coupled with expert doctors’ insights.

More to the point, every doctor would agree that, when it comes to making treatment decisions for very sick, one-of-a kind patients, the judgment of the best experts in the world coupled with existing data would be more convincing than existing data alone. In fact, we have seen that doctors will accept the judgments of experts when that judgment differs from their own, and are less likely to change their treatment plan based upon data alone.

Cancer Commons and our team of experts focus on advanced cancer patients for whom the treatment data are particularly thin, the treatment cost is particularly high, and the treatment success rate is particularly low. Our mission is to be the preeminent resource for advanced cancer patients by breaking down knowledge barriers to save lives.

In a currently fragmented U.S. healthcare system—with variation and disparity in cancer care, as well as a lack of information and resources for patients—Cancer Commons is especially important for those with hard-to-treat cancers who have exhausted standard-of-care options and often feel left alone to navigate next steps. These are the patients who are asking, what now?

We connect patients and their families to our Nurse Navigators and PhD Scientists, who combine a compassionate approach with deep scientific knowledge of cancer to help advanced cancer patients understand their disease and identify and access the best personalized tests, clinical trials, and treatments.

Our solution enables a patient-centric network of patients, nurse navigators, scientists, physicians and national experts to collectively reason and deliver a plan to patients. We elevate the patient to equal status of other industry stakeholders by cutting across organizational and information barriers and combining available knowledge with clinical experience to focus on what is best for each individual. We then apply those learnings to help the next similar patient.

Cancer Commons differentiates itself from all other cancer organizations through our transformative process, which aims to continuously learn from the experiences of all patients, on all treatments, all the time.

For anyone who is wondering, “what now?” for themselves or for a loved one with cancer, I encourage you to register now to get support from Cancer Commons.