The start of Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2020
Clive Morris, CEO
Today marks the start of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, a critical point in time for all those working on any aspect of this devastating disease to stop, think and remind ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing.
More patients on the right therapy, more rapidly
For Inivata, when we started our journey, there was clearly a huge unmet need for lung cancer patients. Diagnosis relied upon an invasive tissue biopsy and whilst the guidelines stated that all patients should be fully genotyped, the data showed that even in markets with the most advanced healthcare systems, only a minority of patients had been fully profiled. It was clear that a minimally invasive liquid biopsy approach had a significant role to play. This drove the development of our first product, InVisionFirst®-Lung. By profiling individuals from a simple blood draw, we have been able to help inform clinicians with the relevant information so that more patients have been prescribed the right therapy, in a shorter timeframe. For those who have late stage cancer with a low life expectancy, getting results back within a week is a critical benefit.
Early detection of response to immunotherapies
We also have an FDA breakthrough device designation for monitoring patients, where we analyze for early detection of response to immunotherapies. It’s not always easy to identify which patients are responding well to their therapy and which aren’t. We’ve generated data through an academic collaboration which identifies whether a patient is responding to a therapy three weeks after starting it via a simple blood draw. Not only could this help inform clinicians which therapy is most applicable but it could also result in a change in therapy if the individual is not responding well.
Monitoring residual disease and recurrence in early stage lung cancer
A newer development in our pipeline is our RaDaR programme which takes our technology into early stage lung cancer. Whilst a minority of lung cancer patients are diagnosed in the early stages of the disease (stage 1-3a), of those that think they have been cured by surgery, there remains a high recurrence rate of between 30-60%. A personalised RaDaR assay could help to identify whether an individual has been cured by surgery, and can detect ctDNA between 6 – 12 months ahead of progression in the majority of patients assessed (more details can be found here).
Impact of COVID
Any cancer disease awareness month in 2020 cannot go unmarked without referring to the global pandemic that we continue to face. In lung cancer specifically the number of lung tissue biopsies has almost halved. Combining this delayed rate of diagnosis, with reduced consultations and slower access to treatment, concerns are high that 2020 will see a significant deterioration of lung cancer outcomes.
Liquid biopsy as a low contact, minimally invasive diagnostic approach is well positioned to side-step some of the challenges presented by COVID-19. Our US commercial partner, NeoGenomics, have set up a mobile phlebotomy service where a blood sample can be taken at a patient’s home. Small simple steps such as these could result in an acceleration in the move to liquid biopsy over the coming months during the COVID-19 pandemic but also could help build a better process for patients and physicians to detect and monitor disease in the future.
An increased drive in partnering
As we move forward, Inivata will continue to proactively pursue more partnerships. Specifically, we are looking to work with biopharma to accelerate drug development. Using RaDaR we have the ability to change the entire approach for an adjuvanted early stage cancer trial. Currently around 70% of patients with early stage cancer are cured by their treatments, but all participants must be followed for 3-5 years to prove there is no recurrence. Partnering with biopharma on RaDaR presents an opportunity to create a trial that only studies those that haven’t been cured; resulting in a much smaller and more accurate trial over a shorter duration. This would help bring better therapies to patients faster.
Finally, it is key that everyone in our organization connects with our mission to transform cancer care. This month in particular, we are focusing on bringing to life the statements that we make. We will be dispelling the myths of lung cancer – reminding ourselves that it doesn’t only affect elderly individuals that have smoked all of their life – and focusing on the unmet need that we’re trying to address. With the help of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and other key advocacy groups, we will make sure we remain focused on the job at hand.