Cancer Commons founder Marty Tenenbaum wrote a letter to the editor that has now been published in The Economist. His piece discusses the importance of using data to accelerate improvement of cancer treatment. From the letter:
“The oncology drug pipeline is full of promising immunotherapies and targeted treatments (Technology Quarterly on cancer, September 16th). Unfortunately, no one knows the optimal way to use them. Doctors and patients alike struggle with conflicting expert opinions and the information overload. Moreover, a cure will probably involve intelligent combinations of remedies, and there are far more plausible regimens than there are patients available to test them in clinical trials. Treatments, outcomes and quality of life vary widely across institutions, falling off sharply from elite cancer centres to rural, disadvantaged and third-world communities.
“In the absence of definitive clinical studies, the fastest way to improve outcomes is by aggregating the insights, experiences and intuitions of our best clinicians, and continuously validating and refining them based on real-world data.
“Every day, patients who have exhausted the standard of care are treated with off-label drugs and rational cocktails. Unfortunately, these individualised (“N-of-1”) experiments are not co-ordinated, and their results seldom reported, so little is learned. If we can capture these results and rapidly share them with community oncologists on the front line, I am confident many lives can be saved—or at least meaningfully extended—with no new drugs required.”
Read the letter on The Economist website.