Medicine has come tremendously far in the last century. In 1914, Penicillin had not yet been discovered and pneumonia and TB were causing a third of all deaths on the planet.1
Fast forward one hundred years and two world wars, and the world of medicine is unrecognizable. Antibiotics, surgery, prosthetics all emerged and progressed at a rate unimaginable to the layman of 1914. So far has medicine come, that we can now replace a person’s heart with a pair of turbines, and map a person’s entire body before uploading it to the cloud.
Some say the next step in our medical evolution will come in the form of Big Data and Personalized Medicine. The ubiquity of information technology has left us with an untapped wealth of patient data that is now being used to streamline health services and even map a patient’s entire genome, allowing doctors to find the best possible treatment, specifically tailored to a patient’s genetic makeup.
Soon, medical research and innovation will be getting a booster shot. GE Healthcare is partnering with GlaxoSmithKline in an unprecedented effort to advance research on metastatic melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Under the terms of the partnership, GE Healthcare, through its affiliate Clarient, will use its expertise to certify laboratories and generate diagnostic data on metastatic melanoma patients. The first laboratories to do this important work are expected to be operational in several countries, including Brazil and Russia, by early 2015.
According to the World Health Organization, the incidence of melanoma has been increasing over the past several years. It is estimated that 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year. One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer and, according to Skin Cancer Foundation Statistics, one in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
The cancer is triggered by damage done to skin cells’ DNA by UV light from the sun. While not very much is understood about the changes that result from this damage, scientists do agree that around fifty percent of metastatic melanoma cases involve a defective set of genes called BRAF. Of those patients with a BRAF mutation, eighty five percent have a mutation of the BRAF V600E gene in particular.2
The laboratories set up by GE and GSK will provide consistent, high-quality testing to take a closer look at these genetic mutations. When advanced level molecular testing is needed, the current level of quality is, at best, variable. This partnership will help ensure that the right patients get the right treatment at the right time.
“Through this agreement, we hope to better address the variability in access and quality of diagnostic testing which is a common problem seen with targeted oncology therapies and related companion diagnostics globally” said Jonathan Pan, Head of Oncology Companion Diagnostics and Disease Strategy, GSK. “The commercial testing infrastructure created through this collaboration will enable advanced diagnostic solutions that should improve how patient care is delivered, where the certified laboratories are operational.”
As well as opening the door to a new era of cancer research, the laboratories will raise the bar for patient care and the provision of personalized medicine around the world.
“Our partnership with GSK will enable us to leverage our clinical, technical and quality management expertise to credential laboratory partners worldwide,” said Cindy Collins, CEO, Clarient. “This global network of high quality diagnostic capability can be leveraged with confidence by all pharmaceutical companies in search of rigorously standardized oncology diagnostic services and data.”