A week after the first participants began enrolling in the million-person “All of Us” research cohort piece of the NIH’s Precision Medicine Initiative, Quest Diagnostics laid groundwork for launching its own personalized treatment effort in Texas, focused on cancer.
The company has put the first pieces of this vision in place via its planned acquisition of two laboratory businesses in Lewisville, TX—med fusion and ClearPoint Diagnostic Laboratories. The labs are envisioned as the first pieces of a new Precision Oncology Center of Excellence, through which Quest can provide cancer precision medicine diagnostic services in the Southwest. The center is designed to provide a range of advanced services, such as molecular infectious disease testing and specialized pathology, for providers and patients within its region of the country.
Quest says the network is a response to several trends. First, community oncologists deliver 70% of the nation’s cancer care, according to the Community Oncology Alliance, a non-profit that advocates for community oncology practices and their patients. Second, the number of people diagnosed with cancer each year, and who are living with the disease, is increasing. Tied to this is an increasing number of genomic discoveries and FDA–approved precision medicine therapies.
In addition, the FDA has signaled a significant shift in cancer characterization and treatment through its approval in May of Merck & Co.’s cancer immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) as a treatment for adults and children with unresectable or metastatic solid tumors that express either microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient biomarkers, regardless of tumor location.
“Our approach aims to address these dynamics by standardizing and simplifying precision medicine diagnostics for cancer,” Wendy H. Bost, Quest Diagnostics senior director, corporate communications, said. “Building off the med fusion model, we aim to create services for specific cancers that are evidence– and guideline–based and available within the care pathway.”
A physician treating a patient for a certain type of cancer would have access, Bost said, to an appropriate test based on that patient’s cancer type and disease stage within the electronic health record. “It is a way to simplify an area of medicine that is inherently complex in order to improve clarity, confidence and quality,” she said.
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