A view from the Center

Deloitte's Life Sciences & Health Care Blog

Targeted cancer therapies are the next frontier of treatment, but room to innovate and improve chemotherapy in the mean time

It is exciting to learn about new discoveries and breakthroughs in cancer treatment. Certainly the research community has made great strides in both prevention and treatment. The field of immunotherapy is striving to make the patient’s immune system fight back against cancer cells. Researchers have found that combining drugs with different targets can have positive results, and potentially lead to improved mortality or improved quality of life for some patients. Computer models can help predict the best combinations for individual patients. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is phasing out more traditional cancer studies that involve only chemotherapy drugs and is focusing increasingly on targeted therapies.

Chemotherapy has been around since early in the 20th century. Through the years, there have been developments to improve chemotherapy and reduce the side effects. While chemotherapy is designed to kill fast-growing cancer cells, more targeted therapies hone in on specific weaknesses within the cancer cells. Even as scientists work on the next generation of treatments, many physicians today are still relying on chemotherapy, which is generally effective at destroying cancer cells.

Recognizing that chemotherapy is not going to disappear overnight, some researchers are focusing on improving the treatments. Researchers from the Ottawa Hospital Regional Cancer Centre in Ontario have built a model with the goal of helping reduce the nausea and vomiting that some chemotherapy patients experience. The model incorporates eight risk factors that accurately predict a patient’s likelihood for experiencing grade 2 or higher chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting on a cycle-by-cycle basis. The researchers based the model on data from 1,198 patients who collectively underwent more than 4,000 chemotherapy cycles.

Using the data, the researchers identified the eight risk factors associated with grade 2 or worse nausea and vomiting during the first five days of chemotherapy, and developed a risk score for each patient. The model can help reduce overtreatment of patients who may not need as much medication to treat side effects. It also has the potential to be an important tool for optimizing treatments for patients who do experience nausea and vomiting.

Analysis: According to NCI, an estimated 39 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. The global incidence of cancer is expected to increase by 70 percent over the next 20 years. To help cure cancer, health care stakeholders will need to leverage new innovations and new relationships. Treatments, research and development, regulation, data integration, devices, support systems, and payment systems are all rapidly evolving to tackle cancer.

To accelerate progress in the field of cancer research and catalyze breakthroughs, we need to tackle the problem from every possible angle through:

  • Cognitive technology to replace human intervention in identification of leading treatment options for patients
  • Clinical trial matching to help find the right clinical trials for patients
    Ecosystem network development and tools to enable data sharing and access across providers
  • Informatics and data access to support and enable research efforts
    Crowdsourcing to leverage the power of the crowd to tap into on-demand insights and an open talent model
  • Value-based care and payment models to enhance adoption of tomorrow’s cures today
  • Precision medicine to target treatment to positively responding patients and to reduce adverse events
  • Translational medicine to connect discovery, development, and delivery processes in the R&D value chain

(Source: G. Granitsaris et al, The development of a prediction tool to identify cancer patients at high risk for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, Annals of Oncology, June 2017)

This weekly series explores innovative breakthroughs and new technologies that are driving momentum and change in the life sciences and health care industry.

Author bio

Doug leads Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Life Sciences and Health Care practice. With 24 years of experience, he works closely with multiple top health care organizations on major clinical and enterprise transformation efforts and on large-scale technology implementation projects. Doug has extensive experience in comprehensive quality and patient safety transformations, turnaround and performance improvement in academic medical centers as well as organization/workflow redesign and technology enablement. He has served as the lead on a number of enterprise transformation initiatives with some of Deloitte’s most largest and most complex clients.