MedStar Health taps real-world data company COTA to advance cancer care

A doctor holding a table
Real-world data have been talked about as a solution for helping improve diversity representation in cancer treatment research. COTA's approach to real-world evidence will help MedStar address racial disparities of care, MedStar Health executives said. (Sergei Domashenko/Shutterstock)

MedStar Health wants to leverage real-world data to drive faster, more precise cancer treatments.

The health provider, one of the largest in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., region, inked a research partnership with COTA to tap into its oncology real-world data and analytics expertise.

The MedStar Health cancer team—including MedStar Health Cancer Network and the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute—provides care to patients across 10 sites. The institute’s academic cancer partner—Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center—is one of only 51 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation to receive this designation by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The health system has 300 locations including 10 hospitals, ambulatory and urgent care centers. 

"Cancer is a race that starts every minute of every day when someone is diagnosed.  Our collective research community can accelerate progress only if we pursue all available avenues toward the goal of alleviating the burden of cancer through prevention, better treatments that control disease, and eventually cures," Lou Weiner, M.D., director of MedStar's Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, said to Fierce Healthcare.

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"Collecting and understanding data is becoming increasingly important to how providers select cancer treatments for individuals,” Weiner said.

“The Institute’s research collaboration with COTA will help accelerate advances and enhance our goal of providing our patients with tomorrow’s cancer treatments, today," he said.

COTA provides oncology real-world data abstraction, curation and analytics capabilities to healthcare provider organizations and life sciences companies that are curating and developing treatments for patients living with a wide range of cancers. The company uniquely combines oncology expertise with technology-enabled data abstraction techniques to curate meaningful, longitudinal and de-identified data sets. 

"I believe we need to determine when we can rely upon real-world data instead of classic randomized controlled clinical trials to more efficiently and accurately develop new therapies and understand if, when and how to use them," Weiner said. 

MedStar Health aims to use real-world data as a discovery engine to identify heretofore unexplored relationships between clinical factors and clinical outcomes, he said.
"I would like to have RWD be a tool to understand nuances of effectiveness and toxicities after a new drug or treatment combination has been approved for use," he noted.

Real-world data have been talked about as a solution for helping improve diversity representation in cancer treatment research. Weiner said COTA's approach to real-world evidence will help MedStar address racial disparities of care.

"As director of a NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center I have a particular interest in, and feel a special obligation to assure representation of all groups, including underserved minority populations," he said.

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COTA recently announced a similar collaboration with the University of Chicago Medicine to study racial disparities in cancer. That partnership focuses on multiple myeloma, and researchers at COTA and University of Chicago Medicine are using real-world data to examine potential disparities in clinical treatment pathways and outcomes.

In November 2020, COTA banked $34 million in series D funding led by Baptist Health South Florida and ONC Capital with participation from EW Healthcare, Horizon BCBS and other existing investors. This also includes a $20M investment from Varian, which negotiated an option to acquire COTA at a later date.

The company serves as a bridge between healthcare providers and the researchers who can accelerate clinical development to "make life-saving treatments available to patients faster,” according to Mike Doyle, CEO of COTA. 

COTA was founded in 2011 by a team of doctors, engineers and data scientists to create clarity from fragmented and often inaccessible real-world data. The company organizes fragmented, often hidden data from the real world to provide clarity in cancer care. The company partners with providers, payers and life science companies.