December 2020

Dr. Chadi Nabhan Chairman, Precision Oncology Alliance

They say time flies and they’re correct. Today we embark on the third edition of Caris Connection, an e-newsletter for the Precision Oncology Alliance (POA). We started this initiative back in June with the intent of keeping our members updated on all of our initiatives at Caris and to connect you with your fellow colleagues within the POA.

A lot has happened since our last issue. COVID-19 cases continue to rise as we remain in a pandemic mode and approach the holiday season. Despite the rise in cases, there’s cautious optimism about vaccines in the near future. We’ve experienced the drama of the presidential election and have seen how this can affect healthcare delivery and patient care. And we’re seeing the continued approvals of new therapies that often require diagnostic tests to assure precision in care delivery. Regardless of any and all of these ongoing changes, Caris promises to be agile, flexible and available to accommodate any and all of your patient needs. To that end, our laboratory and staff at Caris have been working around the clock to assure that tests are performed timely, reports are being delivered to ordering physicians as soon as possible, and our educational efforts continue unabated.

Recently, we launched our web-based real-world data platform, Caris CODEai, which combines more than 200,000 molecular data with outcomes and some clinically annotated information. This platform will be available exclusively to POA member institutions and investigators allowing continued scholarly activities and research projects that require big data for analysis. You can learn more about CODEai in the Caris Scientific Advances section of this issue. Dr. Jim Abraham, Caris’ Chief Data Officer, offers a review this platform and provide his insights into the importance of big data in analyzing relevant medical information to get answers that clinical trials might fail to get.

Staying on the subject of Artificial Intelligence (AI), just last week Caris announced positive results from the validation studies of MI FOLFOXai™. FOLFOXai is the first clinically validated machine-learning powered molecular predictor of chemotherapy efficacy in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC). This AI-based predictor is intended to gauge a mCRC patient’s likelihood of benefit from first-line treatment FOLFOX followed by FOLFIRI versus FOLFIRI followed by FOLFOX, both standard of care options that have been shown to be equally effective in RCTs. The studies demonstrated that the overall survival (OS) in patients treated in a manner consistent with the FOLFOX prediction was 17 months longer than the OS of patients treated counter to prediction. This study demonstrated the enormous potential AI has in cancer profiling, and you can read the entire article here in the Dec. 8 issue of Clinical Cancer Research. The ability to treat patients with mCRC with a high degree of precision demonstrates the power of big data and the collaborative efforts of the POA. We continue to work on other molecular signatures that could optimize the way we deliver care to patients with cancer.

In every issue of Caris Connection I like to share with you a recent interview I’ve had with one of your colleagues. In this issue I spoke with Dr. April Salama, from Duke University, who has a wealth of knowledge in cutaneous oncology, specifically melanoma. Dr. Salama shared with me her journey and how she became the Director of the Melanoma Disease Group at Duke, where she is also an Associate Professor. We’re also featuring The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke in this issue, which was officially announced as the 32nd member of the POA in January of this year.

Our alliance continues to grow and now stands at 45 cancer centers, each properly diversified to allow optimal peer-to-peer exchange and robust output of translational research projects. I am specifically proud of the addition of three European sites, which will expand our international reach and allow us to eventually answer questions applicable to patients cared for outside of the U.S.. Our first international POA meeting, which we held on September 10, 2020, was very successful with 45 clinicians from 24 countries in attendance. Our second international POA meeting is already scheduled for March 11, 2021, and we anticipate an even larger number of attendees.

As many of you have seen and heard, we continue to expand the Caris Molecular Minute podcast series.  Thanks to you, our loyal listeners, we are now approaching 2,000 downloads/listens since its inception. Please check them out, rate them, write a review and let us know your thoughts. And please – don’t hesitate to share with me your ideas and opinions. I promise I will do my best to incorporate them in our upcoming episodes.

There are several initiatives that we are working on within the POA, such as the pediatric initiative and a Healthcare Disparities Council. I promise to tell you more about these in the next issue. As a reminder, you and your colleagues are welcome to attend any and all of our POA meetings. These meetings are available to you to allow greater collaboration on all research projects divided by specialty.

I want to end by thanking you all for your unwavering support to the POA. Without you, our members, we would not be where we are today. I share this success with you and hope that when we meet again for the next Caris Connection e-newsletter, this pandemic will be behind us and I can continue to share more success stories that we have achieved together.

Until next time, have a safe and wonderful holiday season.

Chadi Nabhan, M.D., MBA, FACP


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Chadi Nabhan, MD, MBA, FACP
Caris Precision Oncology Alliance
Caris Life Sciences