The rates of cancer are rising and there have been great strides in the development of the drugs to tackle the disease. However, the treatment pathway has remained relatively unchanged and the efficacy of the drugs isn't usually known until the end of the treatment course, which can be months down the line. Cambridge Cancer Genomics is a precision oncology start-up, and our technology provides critical and regular insight and intervention in the effectiveness of the treatment, transforming the way cancer patients are treated.
The significant investments in researching, understanding and treating cancer in recent years have led to improvements in care and outcomes, but there is still a considerable way to go. Many cancers are difficult to cure, with treatments proving ineffective at the end of the course. One of the main reasons for this, and biggest challenges of tackling the disease, is that cancer evolves - tumours are not static and are evolving both over time and in response to therapeutic intervention. With an ability to rapidly mutate, the tumour can have evolved significantly in the few months from diagnosis which has significant impact on the effectiveness of treatment plans. For example, in one particular gene mutation, for lung cancers treated with anti-EGFR therapies, in 8 months the tumour completely evolves leaving 80% of patients resistant to the treatment.
Currently, cancer patients have to wait up to 6 months to know whether their chemotherapy is working. In the interim, patients suffer the side effects of such treatments sometimes with no benefit. We identified the need for better tools and data at more regular intervals to support the clinicians to intervene at earlier, critical stages to change treatments to according to the cancer's mutational load or mutational profile.
Using simple blood draws, CCG shortens the time required to know whether treatment is working using emerging technologies of liquid biopsies and artificial intelligence. Liquid biopsies enable DNA analysis of a tumour from a blood sample which removes current invasive biopsy procedures. This simple procedure also means that samples can be taken regularly to better monitor the evolution of the tumour. We can then augment this data with artificial intelligence to predict whether the current therapy is still the most appropriate for the patient or whether the treatment pathway needs to change.
Through the application of next generation sequencing and machine learning we can understand a tumour's evolutionary trajectory and use this information to better predict treatment effectiveness. This insight has the potential to save the patient from wasted months of ineffective treatments, allowing the clinician to monitor changes to tumour biology and buying them more time to alter treatment and reduce unnecessary side effects. In addition, we can identify relapse up to 7 months earlier than standard practice. Our technology also reduces the wasted health spend of months of ineffectual treatment courses, sometimes at huge costs where we can ensure spend is on more effective treatment for the patient.
In clinical trials, patients are continuously monitored and based on the data coming from this, decisions are made to change patient plans quickly. Once a drug is commercialised however, there is much less continual monitoring of drug performance, the process takes a big step backwards. Our technology enables the treatment process to be a more clinical trial-based approach, shortening the intervention intervals by providing more regular data and insight on progress. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence aren't being used enough at the moment, especially in bioinformatics, but new technologies offer huge potential and bring positive disruption to the healthcare industry: there's no reason for things to be gold-plated because they're used a lot or have been embedded for a long time. It’s about using everything we have now for the benefit of the patient.
We're bringing disruption into the healthcare system by guiding smarter cancer therapy with significant benefit to the in-treatment pathways of patients. The promise of the new technologies we're utilising and developing empowers the clinicians to keep pace with the rapid evolution of a tumour, to react quicker, adapting treatment accordingly, and in time go further to potentially understand the mutation before it happens and better predict the best therapeutic strategy for cancer patients before they even begin treatment.
Co-Founder & CEO
Cambridge Cancer Genomics
South East, PwC United Kingdom