Happy Holidays from Cancer Commons

Erika Vial Monteverdi

The holiday season is an excellent time to reflect on the successes of the past year while looking forward to opportunities in the rapidly approaching new year.

We want to express our deepest appreciation to the Cancer Commons community; everyone’s involvement and support have been integral to our progress and success this year.

Our mission of leveraging the world’s best cancer knowledge to help advanced cancer patients and their physicians make optimal treatment decisions is particularly relevant in today’s rapidly evolving oncology landscape. Almost every day, we hear about some new molecular pathway that may hold the potential to inspire a novel therapeutic strategy. Too often, no one knows the optimal way to use available therapies, as there are too few patients and too many combinations of therapies possible.

Cancer Commons is addressing this “oncology revolution” in three ways: first, we convene experts at elite academic centers to share their knowledge and collectively weigh in on challenging cases; second, we curate this lifesaving information and communicate it plainly to patients in the form of personalized treatment options, third, we provide treating physicians with a trusted source of knowledge for achieving optimal outcomes. We concentrate on those patients who need us the most – those who have the most difficult-to-treat cancers. Curing these patients is hard, but helping them live longer and better is often attainable, and that may be enough to get them to the next treatment breakthrough. Cancer Commons is always learning.

To date, we have helped more than 2,900 cancer patients navigate the complexity of cancer treatment. Research done on their behalf holds the promise to inform the treatment of countless others. Our physician network includes many experts from top National Cancer Institute (NCI) centers. We are partnering with top advocacy groups and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to scale our services across the oncology community. Most important, we are empowering patients to take charge of their care.

In the words of a patient who has used ASK Cancer Commons,

“You are elevating the patient to equal status to other stakeholders (in the health care system). Patients are finally being served instead of serving others.”

Our patient-centric Virtual Tumor Board (VTB) process is unique among cancer organizations. It combines the collective judgment of top experts with data from previous patients within a continuous, learning system. Each patient’s story informs the guidance we provide to similar patients, including the clinical trials, treatments, and answers they need to change the outcome of their disease. We then capture their treatments and outcomes to continuously learn.

In 2019, we will continue to scale and refine our VTB process, starting with glioblastoma (GBM), the deadliest form of brain cancer, directly empowering more than 500 patients. We are also launching a proof of concept in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a highly aggressive and difficult-to-treat type of pediatric brain tumor that affects about 300 children per year in the U.S. We recently received funding to apply our VTB process to pancreatic cancer and aim to reach at least 200 patients. Our objective in these pilot studies is to prove that, by helping one patient at a time and continuously learning, our VTB process can scale, impact decision making, and improve outcomes. To achieve these goals, we will need to expand the current process beyond merely providing personalized best options. We must also facilitate access to the recommended treatments, track patient progress and outcomes, and widely disseminate what we learn to the whole of oncology.

We are honored to have earned our community’s trust. In our family, patients are always first. We act with a sense of urgency as if our own lives were on the line, and we aim to innovate boldly so as to provide our services at scale. Our supporters share these values, and our generous donors continue to ensure that all of our services are free to every patient.

Cancer Commons is transforming oncology for the benefit of patients. We are uniquely positioned to take on this grand challenge, and we are grateful for our community’s continued partnership.

Happy Holidays!