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Cancer’s Disruptive Dozen


Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-06-01-2016
Volume 36
Issue 6

The World Medical Innovation Forum presents its second list of breakthrough technologies-this time focused on oncology.

The healthcare technology news corps took out its wide-angle lens once again to capture a gaggle of experts on stage at April’s World Medical Innovation Forum in Boston. In its second season, Partners Healthcare played host to more than 1,000 industry leaders convened on the topic of

Casey McDonald

cancer. (Last year’s focus was neuroscience; 2017 will target cardiovascular). 

Once again, the conference headlined its Disruptive Dozen-12 technological advances that the surveyed faculty members identified as having the greatest potential to enhance care in the next decade. We highlight a few of them here.


#12: Nanotechnology

Engineering at the nano scale offers promise to cancer treatment and diagnosis as well as in the research setting. Ligand-directed nanoparticles may be directed to specific tumor cells for precision drug delivery, minimizing harm to healthy cells and side effects.


#11: Redefining Value 

The cost of innovative treatments remains on everyone’s mind, even for those doing the innovating. Novel patient-centric metrics and the merging of big data, shared and transparent, with new analytic capabilities, will be key. The Partners are optimistic that the future will bring better management of “complexity of cancer,” part of which will be “finding alternative payment models.”


#9: mHealth 

Mobile devices, wearables, etc. promise to do great things in medicine. But how will they play in cancer? Tracking patients outside of the hospital for changes and adherence will be one. Cancer care apps offering supportive care could offer “personalized social support.” Rapid response to specific side effects of chemotherapy is one way digital and mobile technology is already being tested.



Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) are triggering hysteria among researchers (and mainstream media) at the amazing potential to edit the genome with ease. Therapies may ultimately target cancer cells directly or empower immune cells in the fight.


#4: Machine Learning and Computational Biology 

Cancer specialists face a daunting task just to keep up with the latest research. The literature is just one thing to consider. Add to that the reams of data each patient will bring to their check up, from a genomic analysis to step-counting wearables. Machine learning will be necessary to enable personalized care and to give an assist on accurate diagnoses.


#1 and #2: Immune Modulators and Cellular Immunotherapy

Immuno-oncology earned the top two spots from the Partners faculty. At #2, checkpoint inhibitors, like our Brand of the Year, Opdivo, are already proving their worth, and more candidates and combination strategies have oncologists thrilled. Time will tell how many more patients can benefit as cure rates are expected to improve and more cancer types are being targeted. And causing even greater excitement, at #1, was cellular immunotherapy, namely CAR-T technology. Genetically altered T-cells turned into cancer seeking missiles has researchers and the investment community simmering, especially given impressive response rates in patients who had stopped responding to all other interventions.

Check out the Disruptive Dozen full report here.


Casey McDonald is Pharm Exec’s Senior Editor. He can be reached at casey.mcdonald@ubm.com and on Twitter at @mcd_casey   

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