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Enabling Precision Oncology Through Companion Diagnostics

By: Garret Hampton, Executive Vice President of Clinical Genomics and Dr. Phil Febbo, Chief Medical Officer at Illumina

Enabling Precision Oncology Through Companion Diagnostics

Every few decades there are a handful of advances that forever change medicine and launch us into a new era of human health. We believe we are in the midst of one of those historic inflection points. Not since the development and use of chemotherapies have we seen subsets of cancers halted in their tracks by new classes of targeted drugs and therapies that reignite a patient’s own immune system to fight their cancer. Cancer is by definition, complex. By understanding the genomic basis for each patient’s disease, we can develop tests that pinpoint the genomic alterations that fuel cancer and allow the oncologist to select the right therapies to manage their patient’s cancer. Both of us have never been more optimistic than we are today that we are fully moving into this era of personalized medicine.

We have a vision for how oncologists will determine the treatment path for the thousands of people who are diagnosed with cancer each day. After the shock and fear of receiving a cancer diagnosis, we strive for cancer patients to feel confidence, optimism and hope that there’s a plan. That plan is specifically tailored to their unique cancer and informed through the promise of precision medicine.

At the 2018 Community Oncology Conference, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottleib declared, “Patients should expect treatments and approaches to care that are more targeted, more successful and more cost effective.” One of the keys to realizing this vision is developing diagnostic tests that can help oncologists choose the right treatments for each patient’s unique cancer. Tests that are robust, standardized and provide the quality that each cancer patient deserves. These advancements will continue to revolutionize treatment for millions of cancer patients who will be able to find the right treatment, faster, when facing a disease where every minute and every decision matters.”

To propel this vision, Illumina is applying our leading next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies to deliver in-vitro diagnostic (IVD) solutions to improve the management of cancer patients in clinic. These tests must be highly accurate and reproducible. For cancer patients whose lives may be cut short, they may have only one chance to receive the right combination of drugs based on testing. We have both an opportunity, and an obligation, to create the standards for which NGS-based testing is measured.

Leading up to the American Association for Cancer Research 2018 conference, we announced partnerships with two pharmaceutical companies to leverage our TruSight Oncology™ platform to advance precision medicine: Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and Loxo Oncology (Loxo). We are partnering with BMS to develop companion diagnostics that may predict whether patients will respond to immunotherapies Yervoy and/or Opdivo. With Loxo, our partnership is focused on identifying patients who may benefit from two of their investigational drugs: larotrectinib and Loxo-292, based on their genetic profile and not on the basis of the anatomic location of their cancer.

Many advances in the cancer field have improved the prognosis of certain cancers. A combination of prevention, early detection, genomic diagnostics, immunotherapies and targeted treatments are making inroads toward combating the disease.

Even with recent successes in the use of immune and targeted therapies, most cancer patients still do not benefit from these profound advances. Without IVD, accessibility remains limited outside the U.S., and even when available, some cancers can relentlessly progress despite available diagnostics and therapies, such as ovarian, pancreatic and glioblastoma.

Understanding cancer and developing the right tests for the selection of the right therapies, is what we have been waiting for. With NGS as the backbone of precision medicine, we are speeding up a cancer patient’s journey to personalized treatment because every minute matters.

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