Here's news about an interesting new collaboration between Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Quest Diagnostics (see: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Quest Diagnostics Partner to Advance Precision Medicine in Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment). This strikes me as a somewhat unusual relationship for both parties but one that makes eminent sense in terms of the current realities of cancer genomics. Below is an excerpt from the article:
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center...and Quest Diagnostics...announced a joint collaboration that will utilize MSK’s clinical and research insights into gene mutations associated with solid tumors. The goal is to use molecular laboratory testing to improve physicians’ ability to treat patients with breast, prostate, colon, lung, and a variety of other solid tumor cancers by giving them a better understanding of the genomic underpinnings of their patients’ illnesses....MSK has amassed extensive databases of gene mutations linked to various types of cancer and developed pharmaceutical treatments based on scientific literature, treatment of patients by the institution’s multidisciplinary teams, and clinical trials conducted by MSK researchers and scientists. In the first phase of the collaboration, MSK will provide contextual information about individual mutations identified as part of Quest’s OncoVantage, an independently validated, lab-developed test that launches today to enable molecular characterization of solid tumors. Beginning this summer, physicians who order OncoVantage will benefit from the MSK data through a co-branded clinical annotation report designed to aid the assessment of a patient’s prognosis, as well as to guide treatment selection and to monitor disease progression. Over time, the two organizations intend to further study and extend the mutation data sets to potentially generate improved diagnostics, in addition to research and clinical trials.....Quest’s OncoVantage test is performed on tumor biopsies and uses next-generation sequencing technology to assess the most commonly mutated exons in 34 genes. The sequencing data, in de-identified form, will be shared with MSK, which will leverage its databases to correlate specific gene mutations to potential therapies and disease progression applicable to that cancer type.
MSK is one of the most prestigious cancer hospitals in the country along with other facilities like MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Dana Farber in Boston. Quest is the largest commercial reference lab in the country and is clearly hoping that some of the MSK prestige can be transferred to its branded cancer genomics test, OncoVantage. Note the reference in the excerpt above to the fact that OncoVantage will be paired with a "co-branded clinical annotation report."
Cancer genomics differs radically different than the other tests that Quest offers to its mainly office-based clinician clients and these differences offers clues to the benefits of the alliance for both parties. First of all, MSK controls a treasure trove of a wide variety of biopsied and resected malignant tumors that can be genetically analyzed. This biorepository is immensely valuable and much different than the standard serum samples that Quest acquires in a huge volume on a daily basis. Moreover, molecular and genomic testing is quickly changing and Quest wants to share some of the new knowledge acquired by the MSL bench and clinical scientists.
How does MSK benefit from the relationship aside from a potentially large source of licensing revenue to be obtained from Quest, the terms of which were not available in the article. I suspect that, given Quest's marketing clout, a large number of OncoVantage tests will be performed on a daily basis. Note the following statement from the article above: The [OncoVantage] sequencing data, in de-identified form, will be shared with MSK, which will leverage its databases to correlate specific gene mutations to potential therapies and disease progression applicable to that cancer type. The only problem here is that Quest has not historically obtained robust patient clinical histories from its physician clients. It's likely, however, that Quest will be obliged to obtain such when OncoVantage samples are submitted to their lab.