Information that carries hope for cancer patients

Partnership between Roche and Foundation Medicine, Inc. heralds a new chapter in the use of molecular information to choose the right treatments for cancer patients.

Roche recently acquired a majority stake in Foundation Medicine, Inc. (FMI), the molecular information company, beginning a collaboration that has the potential to bring personalised healthcare in oncology to the next level.

Until recently, cancers have almost exclusively been categorised by the organ or “site” in which they were first found, for example: breast, colon, blood, skin and lung. More and more however, scientists are discovering that there are significant differences in terms of the underlying DNA alterations that fuel cancer growth—even within the same type of cancer.  At the same time, they are also identifying common genomic patterns across multiple types of cancers. So some cancers can now more accurately be categorised by their genomic differences or their underlying similarities.

Where FMI comes in is to fulfil the great need that exists today to take this comprehensive genomic profile or molecular information and to present it in a clear and actionable format to support doctors in their decision-making.

A meeting of minds

Combining Roche’s deep understanding of cancer biology with FMI’s exceptional sequencing data and real-world genomic information will enable us to better design and understand the results of clinical trials based on molecular information.

Jason Coloma
From the onset, we really felt that molecular information was going to advance our personalised healthcare strategy by improving the way we deliver diagnostics and therapies to patients
Jason Coloma, Head of Oncology and Cancer Immunology Partnering at Roche.
Garret Hampton
This partnership is exciting for both companies as it will help in how we develop our drugs, optimise those treatments for cancer patients, and bring personalised healthcare in oncology to the next level
Garret Hampton, Vice President, Oncology Biomarker Development and Companion Diagnostics in gRED/Genentech.

Clinically relevant alteration in four out of five cases

A piece of cancer tissue half the size of a pea is all that is required to run all the tests needed to get the necessary genomic information. A report is generated which goes back to the treating physician, providing a list of the genomic alterations that are thought to be the drivers for that cancer and an overview of any therapies available which may help to target these alterations.

We asked Vincent Miller, Chief Medical Officer of FMI, to describe how relevant all this information generally is. “In four out of five cases we find a clinically relevant genomic alteration, or CRGA. So 80 percent, that’s a high number,” he said. “However, many doctors working in community practices oftentimes do not participate in clinical trials, so my estimate would be that they can currently use our information only about a quarter of the time. The vision and creativity of Roche and the breadth of the Roche portfolio in bringing drugs where they need to go is an ideal fit for FMI.

All of this molecular information is really about making the results of tests more useful and more powerful.”

A technology pioneer

Founded in 2009, Foundation Medicine, Inc. (FMI) is focused on generating in-depth genomic data on cancers with the aim of providing the treating physician with actionable information and the patient with the most effective treatment available.

FMI has comprehensively assessed hundreds of genes known to be associated with cancer, and it has profiled the cancer genomes of more than 60,000 patients with the help of next-generation DNA sequencing.

In 2013, FMI was named by the World Economic Forum as one of the world’s top technology pioneers. FoundationOne®, launched in September 2012, is the only commercially available comprehensive molecular information product designed for use in the routine care of patients with solid tumour cancers.

Tags: Science, Partnerships