Curious Dr. George: Meet and Ask the CollabRx Experts (Layout 1)

Managing Metastatic Colorectal Cancer

April 13, 2016

Bassel El-Rayes, MD, Professor and Vice Chair for Clinical Research, Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Associate Director for Clinical Research, and Director of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

Q:You have just received a new patient, referred to you from Macon, GA. She is a 52 year old white woman in good general health who is 3 months post op from a left hemi-colectomy for a grade 3 adenocarcinoma with extension through muscle but not through the serosa. Three of 15 lymph nodes were positive for cancer. She did not receive post-op radiation or chemotherapy. No molecular testing of the tumor was performed. She now presents with a single 3 cm mass in the liver discovered by CT scan. How will you manage her care?

A: This 52-year-old patient presents with a solitary liver lesion 3 months after resection of a stage III colon primary. If all her other staging is negative, my first question is do we proceed directly to surgery or should we try chemotherapy first? The short interval between the original cancer and the recurrence makes the case to use chemotherapy upfront followed by surgery.

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Compassionate Use of Investigational Drugs

April 6, 2016

Arthur Caplan, MDAmrit Ray, MD
Arthur L Caplan, PhD Director, Division of Medical Ethics, NYU Langone Medical Center
Amrit Ray MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson

Q: What is the ethical basis for compassionate use of investigational drugs; and what are some practical considerations in making such use reality?

A: In seeking relief from the burden of disease, some patients face a lack of satisfactory treatment options from the range of available, government regulatory authority approved medicines. In these circumstances, patients often turn to investigational medicines, or “pre­approval access.” The main avenue for pre­approval access is for patients to enter clinical trials.

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Single Cell Biology in Cancer Research and Treatment

March 30, 2016

Gavin Gordon, PhD
Gavin Gordon, PhD, Senior Director, Global Pharma & Clinical Trials Alliances, Fluidigm Corporation

Q: What do you see as the best roll for single cell biology in cancer research and treatment in the near future?

A: Supporting immuno-oncology research and development.
Single cell biology refers to the analysis of individual cells isolated from complex tissues obtained from multi-cellular organisms and can be applied to many biologically relevant areas of study. For example, the identification and characterization of various cell compartments, the study of cell fate including lineage mapping and phenotypic plasticity, and understanding mechanisms of tumorigenesis.

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How to Initiate Treatment for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia

March 23, 2016

Jerald P. Radich, MD
Jerald P. Radich, MD, Director of the Molecular Oncology Lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine

Q: What is your basic approach to handling a middle aged adult patient in good general health who is referred to you with a new diagnosis of Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia?

A: First off, the treatment of choice for chronic phase CML is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). Currently there are three approved TKIs in the front line setting, imatinib and the second generation TKIs, nilotinib and dasatinib. There have been three randomized trials comparing imatinib to either nilotinib or dasatinib, and all three show remarkably similar results.

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Making NGS Work for Oncologists

March 16, 2016

Smruti Vidwans, PhD
Smruti Vidwans, PhD, Chief Science Officer at CollabRx

Q: Your group has recently described an Actionability Framework for designing treatment strategies for cancers that are characterized by mutations. What is the basis and rationale for such an approach?

A: As Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is increasingly adopted into clinical practice, physicians are faced with the daunting task of identifying variants that are clinically actionable – those that can help them select potential treatment options. In oncology, NGS technologies are used to profile tumor or liquid biopsies and identify variants in cancer-related genes. Cancer gene panels range in size from a handful of genes to several hundred. Depending on the size of the panel, many variants may be observed in tumors.

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Treating Metastatic Malignant Melanoma

March 9, 2016

Keith Flaherty, MD
Keith Flaherty, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Director of Developmental Therapeutics, Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital.

Q: What is your basic approach to handling a new young adult patient in good general health who is referred to you with a diagnosis of Malignant Melanoma, metastatic to liver or lung? The primary cutaneous melanoma, 1.5 mm in thickness, was diagnosed in Maine 5 years ago and was of skin on the forearm; treated there by wide resection with clear margins and no lymph node dissection. There was no molecular/genomic testing of the primary.

A: In a case like this, there are a few additional elements of data that I always try to obtain:

  1. Brain MRI
  2. Serum LDH
  3. V600 BRAF mutation status (younger patients are significantly more likely than older patients to have a V600 BRAF mutation), so it’s likely that this patient has one
  4. Presence or absence of disease-related symptoms
  5. Prior scans that might allow the pace of disease progression to be ascertained (not always possible in a very recently diagnosed patient; but even if 4-6 weeks have passed since the first assessment prior to me seeing the patient, I’ll consider repeating imaging of the lungs and liver to glean the pace of progression

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Introducing a New CollabRx Blog

March 2, 2016

George Lundberg, Editor in ChiefDenise Bartolome
George D Lundberg, MD Editor in Chief and Chief Medical Officer
Denise Bartolome, Managing Editor and Webmaster

Q: Why are we starting The CollabRx Blog?

A: With our new blog, we intend to provide a vehicle to communicate timely information of importance about cancer to a broad audience. Our Editorial Board members come from hospitals, cancer research centers, government, academia, industry, and other organizations, invited guest experts, and the CollabRx staff.

Our goal is to teach about the use of genomic (and other -omic) data in cancer diagnosis, prognosis, therapy selection, and clinical trials, as well as payer attitudes, policies, ethics, and economics; and focus, filter, and distill pointed and clear understanding selected from an abundance of very complicated and often confusing source data.

The CollabRx Blog will be a regular recurring journalism column about cancer in blog format with a link on the home page of the corporate website It begins today, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. Our primary audience will be physicians (especially oncologists, pathologists, radiologists and surgeons) plus basic and clinical scientists. We welcome the viewpoints of other health care professionals, students, foundations, pharmaceutical, biotech and device company workers, hospital employees, investors, NGOs, government, public media, payers, purchasers, cancer patients and their families

We will publish weekly at 12 noon PT each Wednesday. The posts will be about 500 words or less. Our blog will be in a Q&A format with specific questions from the CollabRx Editor in Chief to invited experts who respond with answers. Each posting will eventually have an open-ended discussion forum.

Our blog will abide by the Creative Commons rules for open access.
Our posts will be found on Social Media Platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook in the near future.

Thank you for looking and for reading. We hope to provide regular information of value so as to merit your frequent return.