GE Healthcare partners with Vanderbilt University on precision immunotherapy apps

GE Healthcare and Vanderbilt Medical Center launched a partnership this week to deliver more precision in immunotherapy treatment.

Over the next five years, the two organizations will conduct retrospective research on cancer patients' treatment to develop a picture of what treatment works for each individual. They will then use that data to create an AI-powered app which physicians can use to select the best type of treatment for each patient.

“Immunotherapy offers tremendous promise but given the current unpredictability of some patients’ reactions to treatments, it is also associated with increased morbidity and cost. This partnership provides the opportunity to leverage strengths of both of our organizations to further personalize cancer care by creating new tools that allow clinicians to more accurately predict how patients will respond to a specific therapy,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., president and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, in a release.

Immunotherapy treatment uses the patient's immune system to track and attack cancer cells. While it has been shown to be more effective than traditional treatments in some cases, the results are inconsistent. Sometimes the response rate is low, and the treatment can cause severe side effects.

To study the treatment's efficacy, GE and Vanderbilt researchers will draw upon anonymized demographic, genomic, tumor, cellular, proteomic and imaging data of cancer patients. It will then use that data set to correlate which treatments worked for which individuals.

The Vanderbilt Cancer Center will also be available to collaborate on methods of stem cell transplantation.

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In addition to selecting courses of treatment, the companies are hoping to find a more efficient way to bring appropriate patients into clinical trials. Currently, many trials have to recruit participants, adding to the already burdensome process of bringing drugs to market.

"Simultaneously, GE Healthcare and VUMC will develop new positron-emission tomography (PET) imaging tracers, which together with the apps, will help physicians to stratify cancer patients for clinical trials," the companies wrote in the release.

GE and Vanderbilt plan to make their initial prototype app available by the end of 2019 and create a proof-of-concept for the PET tracers by the end of 2020.