Treating cancer can be one of the most stressful and dangerous experiences to go through. There are more than 600 known cancer entities currently being treated by oncologists, each one with its own unique characteristics capable of different reactions in a specific individual.
Traditionally, doctors have relied upon standardized guidelines, depending on the stage and type of cancer, to determine an appropriate starting point for a treatment plan. Patients may go through numerous plans, including some with the potential to do more harm than good, before finding an appropriate treatment, if one can be found.
A patient’s plan is often modified through a trial-and-error process as medicines and treatments work or don’t work. It’s a painstaking, labor-intensive process – not to mention the toll it takes on the patient – that requires constant attention to ensure that printed guidelines are updated based on newer information. This siloed approach requires that doctors and researchers sort through a tremendous amount of data to find the information they need.
Molecular Health, a computational biomedicine company and SAP partner, is working to change all that. The Heidelberg, Germany-based company has developed an innovative software solution leveraging the business data platform SAP HANA that allows doctors to make better data-driven decisions for patient care, according to Dr. Rudolf Caspary, CIO of Molecular Health.
“If you look at a cancer tumor sample, there are maybe 500 genetic defects that you have to map to existing knowledge. It’s a factorial problem, mathematically. It’s an analytical challenge from a software user interface point of view,” Caspary said. “We provide a large knowledge database about drugs and biochemical reactions that can be accessed and interpreted in the context of the particular tumor in real time. Molecular Health can do a lot of good because it allows you to come to a personalized decision for treatment.”
Finding the Right Treatment, Faster
Every tumor has its own unique characteristics, which complicates a treatment plan, especially when you add in that reactions to combinations of medicines and doses are also very different for everybody, according to Thomas Koenig, head of Global Marketing at Molecular Health.
“It’s all about the tumor profile. Along with the patient’s clinical data we provide a report showing the effectiveness, ineffectiveness, and toxicity of drugs or drug combinations in any phase of the cancer treatment. This allows for very targeted treatment and support,” Koenig said.
One drug may be well known as a general cell growth inhibitor, but in certain patients with a certain gene defect, it could do great harm.
Molecular Health leverages a global biomedical database of such information that analyzes all this information for many genes, allowing for doctors to make better, quicker choices for patients, according to Caspary. “We have a fantastic view of mankind today through a gene-focused lens,” Caspary said.
While historically doctors have relied on written paper to predict a patient’s reactions to a certain treatment plan, the content is only as reliable as the moment it was published, Caspary said. Newer information and updates may not be immediately known to doctors, he said.
“Today, there is text telling a doctor don’t treat a patient with this drug, sometimes depending on a small set of genes and particular variants. It reflects current knowledge in the market at the time it was published. If you go through those traditional guidelines, you’ll see you need to do this and then see what the cancer is doing. Doctors will tailor a dosage or radiation depending on how the body reacts to treatment, but it would be much better to sequence the patient from the very beginning, and also later, to always get a complete picture of all protein coding genes.”
Better Analysis is Crucial, Doctors Say
By leveraging intelligent enterprise technology through Molecular Health, doctors and hospitals can react better, faster, and with more accuracy. It’s a concept that doctors say is already making a difference.
“Molecular analyses and their clinical interpretation are crucial today for the selection of the appropriate targeted therapy,” said Dr. Guido Sauter, pathology consultant at the University of Hamburg Hospital in Eppendorf, Germany.
“We can predict the response to a targeted therapy and analyze the tolerability of the planned treatment before administration of the drug,” said Dr. Jalid Sehouli, Medical Director of the Department of Gynecology including the Center of Oncological Surgery at Charité University Hospital in Berlin.
Healthcare has been a big proponent of innovative technologies in many areas, Caspary said, but cancer treatment planning has been long overdue for a refresh. “The patient today is still an experiment. It’s a very old-fashioned way to do things. It’s time to introduce software and Big Data analytics solutions to make better, faster decisions,” Caspary said.
SAP and our partners. Improving lives. That is our purpose.
- SAP Partner: Molecular Health
- Location: Heidelberg, Germany
- Expertise: Provides platform that analyzes the molecular and clinical data of individual patients against the world’s medical, biological, and pharmacological knowledge, to drive more precise diagnostic, therapeutic, and drug safety decisions.
- Twitter handle: @MolecularHealth