KEW, Led by Millennium Co-Founder, Seeks to Bring Big-Time Cancer Care to Community Clinics

4/27/11

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Cancer Clinics of Excellence, a San Rafael, CA-based group that consists of more than 20 community oncology practices in over a dozen states across the U.S. The CCE practice network, which now treats about 5 percent of cancer patients in the country, has already taken steps to provide patients with evidence-based cancer treatment in order to improve outcomes. The merger between KEW and CCE is expected to take place once KEW closes on the required financing to complete the deal, Kucherlapati says. (There’s also a company name change in the offing, Elton says.)

Kucherlapati (whose last name initial represents the “K” in KEW) previously advocated for making genetic testing part of routine care at Partners and Harvard-affiliated hospitals in the Boston area in the early part of the last decade. He and others established in 2001 what is now called the Partners Healthcare Center for Personalized Genetic Medicine. That effort includes a molecular testing lab that helps doctors at Partners hospitals such as Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in weighing patients’ genetics in treatment decisions.

Indeed, the genetics of a patient’s tumor can make all the difference in how he or she responds to a molecularly targeted drug. Take Roche’s cancer treatment trastuzumab (Herceptin), which is only recommended for the 30 percent of breast cancer patients whose tumors overexpress the HER2 gene. Likewise, Pfizer’s (NYSE:PFE) experimental cancer drug crizotinib has shown tremendous results, but only for about 5 percent of non-small cell lung cancer patients whose tumors have ALK gene mutations.

While these and many other drugs help doctors tailor treatments for each patient’s tumor, they also represent a growing body of information that doctors often have to process to provide evidence-based care. And to hear KEW’s founders, it’s no easy task for community oncologists who are treating patients with multiple types of cancer to stay on top of it all. And their community practices aren’t generally equipped with anything close to the capabilities of the personalized genetic medicine center that Kucherlapati helped set up for Partners and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“You can’t keep all this in your head anymore,” Kathy Behrens Wilsey, a co-founder of KEW, says. “[Oncologists] attend meetings, they read journals, they watch the news, and they try to keep track. But it’s a lot of information and it covers an increasing number of cancers.”

KEW plans to build an IT infrastructure that would enable community oncologists in its network to get some standard prompts in their clinics to help guide them in making treatment decisions with the best available … Next Page »

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