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25: Precision Oncology with John From Cambridge Cancer Genomics

15MWTD - John Cassidy - Cambridge Cancer Genomics
On this episode of 15 Minutes with the Doctor, we are joined by John Cassidy, Co-Founder and CEO of Cambridge Cancer Genomics. John shares with listeners how the company started and how they have advanced precision oncology through genomics. This personalised approach means their software can predict which cancer treatments are likely to be most effective.

Key Topics:

  • The current status of oncology
  • Solutions created through genomics
  • The 3 keys to innovation in genomics
  • How Cambridge Cancer Genomics functions
  • Biggest challenges they have overcome

The current status of oncology:

  • Oncologists typically have a short period of time to review a patient’s test results and make a recommendation for their care
  • Oncologists make a recommendation based on their awareness of what drugs or treatments might work, this method is not as effective as it could be
  • With 6 months between scans for most patients, as much as 2/3 of patients will receive treatments that are not effective for months before oncologists recognise the need to try something else

On the lack of progress in chemotherapy: “Two-thirds of patients will go on to receive the same chemotherapy treatments that have been around for decades.”

Solutions created through genomics:

  • Genomics allows oncologists to understand what is going on with each patient on the molecular level
  • The sequencing of blood and tissue samples can be completed in 15 minutes
  • This software is available to clinical diagnostic labs, not direct to consumers
  • In a US trial, using genomics saved an average of $25,000-$50,000 per patient
  • This method is 98% accurate in predicting the correct drug for each patient

The 3 keys to innovation in genomics:

Reduction in cost of genomics:

  • The Human Genome Project cost $1 billion 20 years ago
  • Analysis now costs about $900-$1,000 per patient now

Computational power:

  • Through cloud computing, much more data can be stored securely than ever before and significant developments in artificial intelligence

More drugs are being produced:

  • This means specific drugs are available for more classes and mutations than ever before

“Put those 3 things (genomic innovation, computational power, and more types of drugs being produced) together and you can do personalised scalable precision oncology for a very, very reasonable price.”

How Cambridge Cancer Genomics functions:

  • Founded by 4 co-founders with PhDs who wondered why there was such a disconnect between scientific advances and the technology to support them
  • They built an advanced infrastructure using machine learning to support genomic advances
  • Their software uses an individuals genomic data and machine learning to predict which drugs are most likely to effective
  • They are currently doing alpha and beta testing in 20 centers worldwide, including observational clinical trials in the US and Singapore
  • Biggest challenges they have overcome:

  • Communicating their message, which is imperative to receiving funding
  • While they have a good model, there can be challenges generally in terms of approvals and regulatory hurdles
  • “Getting the messaging right is the key thing to get the funding, and the funding is determined by how well you are telling the story.”

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