DNA.PNGI’ve always been proud to work at SAP. However, this past year, I interviewed some amazing companies that run SAP solutions, and now more than ever, I’m extremely proud to work for such an innovative company that helps trailblazing organizations save lives.

Yes, SAP customers are saving lives.

At SAPPHIRE NOW 2015, I had the pleasure of talking with Mark Rodgers, North American Director of Corporate Communications and Public Relations, and Alexander Picker, EVP Product Management, both from Molecular Health. Speaking to them only strengthened my passion for healthcare and my belief that advanced technology can fix a struggling industry.

Changing the way doctors approach cancer

In 2000, for the first time, doctors read all 3.4 billion DNA pairs in the human genome. This insight into the complete genetic blueprint for building a human being opened the door to new and more-effective treatments for diseases like cancer. However, back then, this process of genetic sequencing was costly and time consuming.

In 2014, Molecular Health invented its end-to-end offering TreatmentMAP TM, which runs on the SAP HANA platform. It translates the language of genes into actionable information that doctors and patients can use to make informed decisions about cancer care.

Now, thanks to Molecular Health, information on a person’s complete genomic sequence can be read relatively cost-effectively and in just a few days.

Turning information into action

As Rodgers and Picker explained, the same cancer treatment that saves one person may be toxic to the health of another. Each case of cancer is unique, and it’s very difficult to determine what treatments will have negative side effects on patients and what will work well. There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment.

With precision medicine, or the practice of analyzing existing treatments to see which is best equipped to tackle a particular case of cancer, Molecular Health is on the forefront of a paradigm shift that can radically improve the prevention and treatment of cancer.

How the analysis works

Molecular Health.PNGTo start the process, a doctor sends a tissue sample from a patient’s tumor to the Molecular Health laboratory. The tissue sample contains both cancerous cell material and healthy cell material from the patient.

At the lab, using TreatmentMAP TM, the sample is genetically analyzed and the cancerous genome sequence is compared to the patient’s healthy genome sequence. Then TreatmentMAP TM compares the patient’s genetic material to the massive amount of available research and clinical information that Molecular Health has been collecting over the past 10 years on biomedical knowledge. This data pool contains information from over 23 million publications, hundreds of cancer indicators, 37,000 drugs, more than 90,000 clinical studies, and more.

After a few hours, the treatment options for the patient are identified, and a specially certified oncologist uses TreatmentMAP  TM to analyze the results and prepare a report for the treating physician. This report contains effective and ineffective treatment methods for this particular instance of cancer, as well as any risks of side effects or toxicity.

It takes about two weeks total from when the physician originally sends out the patient’s sample to when the physician receives the TreatmentMAP TM report. Physicians can then view the best treatments that exist for that particular patient’s instance of cancer, being sure to avoid any treatment that may be harmful to the patient.

“COPE”ing with cancer

SAP and Molecular Health have teamed to provide SAP employees with the Corporate Oncology Program for Employees (COPE). Through COPE, Molecular Health partners with corporations to provide employees diagnosed with cancer access to TreatmentMAP TM. The individual tumor analysis and interpretation is part of the company’s benefits package.

SAP was the first company to ever offer COPE to its employees.

Watch SAP’s Franz Deitering as he explains his journey with COPE.

COPE has already been rolled out in Germany and the United States. Soon it will be available for Canadian employees, and later more countries will be included in the program.

Through COPE, SAP hopes to inspire wider adoption of similar programs among other companies and to make this technology available to as many people as possible.

Future goals

In the future, Molecular Health aims to play a bigger role in drug evaluation and safety for cancer patients. In addition, the organization’s main goal is to expand beyond the treatment of cancer and explore the treatment of other diseases, as well as expand the TreatmentMAP TM approach to cover the complete patient lifestyle.

Molecular Health wants to target healthy patients and work toward early identification and disease prevention. The company wants to make its technology directly available to the consumer.

Counting our blessings

A cancer diagnosis is very hard. However, knowing that my company will cover the cost of tumor analysis for each and every employee, helping doctors make the best treatment decisions for each individual, makes me feel very fortunate.

Rodgers and Picker share in my pride and appreciation for our employers. Both told me their jobs are extremely rewarding. They are part of an organization that directly improves people’s lives and has completely reinvented the way cancer is treated.

For more stories, follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Top image source: thenextweb.com

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7 Comments

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  1. Kelly Vinson

    Great post on the promise of genetic tumor sequencing. IMHO there are some hurdles we all must address in order for this tech to achieve its true potential. As a cancer patient and a health care provider, I believe that our current ability to quickly sequence DNA has outpaced our current knowledge of both how the sequenced protein works and targeted drug options. My oncologists recommended against tumor genetic profiling.  These were top doctors from John Hopkins, MD Anderson, University of Chicago and Northwestern. Why? Because, they said “it’s to expensive and has very low probability of yielding results that will change a patients treatment options.” If this sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy to you, I agree.  If every cancer patient had their tumor profiled that would quickly ramp up our data base of mutations and if this data base was shared world wide then researchers and pharmaceutical companies could exponentially increase the knowledge and options for cancer patients. At $3,000 to $7,000 for only 200 jeans sequenced, a cost not covered by most insurance, I fear this resolution will not be reached any time soon.

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    1. Christine Donato Post author

      Thanks for providing this insight, Kelly.  It’s disappointing that doctors would actually recommend against tumor sequencing.  Of course it’s expensive and of course there’s a learning curve associated with the targeted drug options and how the proteins work, but with time, potential data analysis to crunch and comprehend the information about drug options, and mainstreaming the procedure, hopefully that won’t always be the case.

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      1. Patrick Maroney

        Not just doctors, Christine, leading cancer institutions like John Hopkins and MD Anderson are steering patients away from genomic testing. I think what Kelly is saying, and it is certainly in line with what I am seeing, that “medical policies and procedures” are behind the promises of technology.  There is a long history of slow technology adoption… consider the invention of the incubator where the medical establishment rejected it for 40 years! (you can read more about it here).  Solutions like Molecular Health’s powered by SAP HANA can make massive, positive improvements and impacts today, BUT it wont happen without some serious intervention from political, corporate and medical leaders.

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  2. Kelly Vinson

    IMHO, it will take having tumor sequencing offered to all cancer patients or at least those with a lower then 80% survival predicted with current treatment options.  This data would need to be collectively shared on a world health data base. This doesn’t happen today. Sequencing companties  could make their money bu collaborating with drug companies and researchers by detangeling the proteins purpose – lets race to the function of the protein not just its DNA sequence. 

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    1. Patrick Maroney

      Yes- agreed – tumor sequencing data should be part of the staging work-up for all
      cancer patients and the data collectively shared.   But as you
      have said this doesn’t happen today:

      1) data is not shared

      2) high cost today burden of patient (except for SAP employees – kudos to SAP)

      3) not accepted practice of the medical establishment

      But if these 3 things were to change – if we could collect this data
      without burdening patients with the huge costs to do so – and if corporations
      didn’t own the data but instead shared it freely (in the future data
      sequencing companies would make their money from the speed and validity of
      their algorithms / models
      ) – then this  massive increase in information would reveal patterns far quicker then only sequencing rare tumors.  Think about it.  New, more effective, tailored, and less toxic drugs could be developed – faster and cheaper.

      Overall healthcare costs would be reduced.  Reduce the costs while making research easier and more effective and we create hope for the future.

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