Thursday I ran the first of a three part series about three important cancer research initiatives that the MMRF announced last week.
The first initiative hopes to build off momentum from the Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium’s (MMRC) drive to bank tissue from a large subset of multiple myeloma patients, collected in large part by 16 leading academic and community partners speeding up Phase 1/2 clinical trials and tracking metrics along the way.
According to MMRF Founder and CEO, Kathy Giusti, open access and sharing research data is the second. “We are going to shame big centers into sharing their data and participating in CoMMpass.” The determined leader told me in a one-on-one interview two weeks ago in Connecticut.
CoMMpass? “The CoMMpass longitudinal study is designed to identify patient segments based on molecular profiling.” According to Anne Quinn Young, Kathy’s right hand.
This ambitious and groundbreaking study has a target enrollment of 1000 newly diagnosed, “evaluable” patients. Evaluable? “Yes.” Anne continued. “Our plan is to follow these patients for 8 years (3 year enrollment, plus a 5 year follow up) from as many as 75 different treatment centers.”
To help explain CoMMpass, Anne introduced me to MMRF Chief Operating Officer, Walter Capone, and Research Director, Daniel Auclair. I recognized Daniel, remembering I had interviewed him at ASH a few years back.
“CoMMpass revolves around 5 important core molecular tests.” Walter patiently explained in an hour-long late morning meeting. Daniel jumped-in, adding that Flow cytometry, RNA sequencing expression analysis, whole exome DNA sequencing, whole genome chromosome analysis and cytospin slides (FISH) will all be performed on our behalf by Spectrum Health. Updates will be taken every six months. Physicians will be provided with results from these assays.
“What do you hope to accomplish?” I asked, trying to sort through all of the technical information. “The data will be incorporated in the MMRF’s Researcher Gateway.” Walter answered. He continued, explaining, “CoMMpass data will enable access to large longitudinal data sets to help promote and speed-up research.”
I could sense how excited both men were about the program. But where does the whole “shaming them into participating, ” thing kick-in? Walter explained it this way. “CoMMpass is already generating innovative collaborations and driving open access.”
My mind flashed back to my interview with Kathy. She had introduced me to the concept several hours earlier; I simply didn’t know enough about CoMMpass yet to connect the dots.
Apparently the plan was to make the ongoing data in CoMMpass so important and valuable that drug companies, cancer centers and academic institutions would all give in and contribute data. Why? Because sharing information is the only way to access CoMMpass’ data.
Brilliant! And it’s working. Thus far, 500 patients have been enrolled from over 50 different sites. 4 large pharmaceutical companies are also involved so far: Bristol-Myers Squibb, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Millennium and Onyx are considered “industry partners.”
Why would a drug company want to support CoMMpass? “Because they get to see data before everyone else.” Walter said.
An unprecedented, open access study designed to allow researchers to connect, share analyses, results and insight, with emphasis on developing targeted therapies, novel therapy trials and something Daniel referred to as “precision medicine.”
I just realized that a three part series isn’t even going to scratch the surface. Here’s my new plan.
I’m going to continue on, explaining the third MMRF initiative to start mobilizing the myeloma community online, with the goal if accelerating precision approaches and eventually a cure! I’m then going to backtrack and write more about precision medicine; it’s too important to gloss over; I think it deserves one or more posts of it’s own.
Tune-in for part three of my now four (or five) part series about MMRF research initiatives later this week. Until then, feel good and keep smiling! Pat