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Foundation launches direct-to-patient registry in multiple myeloma


The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) recently launched its Direct-to-Patient registry, in what the organization’s leaders are describing as a “disruptive” step toward improving outcomes for patients with multiple myeloma.

Microscopic multiple myeloma cells are shown. Peter Anderson/ Pathology Education Informational Resource Digital Library/copyright University of Alabama at Birmingham, Department of Pathology

The new registry is intended to build upon CoMMpass, a program started 8 years ago that now represents the largest genomic database of any type of cancer. Although CoMMpass includes data from about 1,150 patients with myeloma, it’s not enough information, according to the chief marketing and development officer at the MMRF, Anne Quinn Young.

Anne Quinn Young of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

Anne Quinn Young

“For a disease as heterogenous as myeloma is, we need more, particularly because we don’t have all the samples for later-stage disease,” Ms. Quinn Young said in an interview. “And even with the clinical data, given the patient population, both [in terms of] demographics and the nature of the disease, the numbers of patients still living after multiple relapses is rather small.”

In an earlier effort to gather more data, the MMRF first turned to other organizations for help, but this approach fell short because of scarcity of data, and in some cases, unwillingness to share. Steven Labkoff, MD, chief data officer at the MMRF, described this experience in an interview.

Dr. Steven Labkoff of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

Dr. Steven Labkoff

“When the MMRF was looking around for different data sources for myeloma data, it was always the claim that, ‘Sure, we have plenty of patients, we have plenty of data, and it’s rich and really complete.’ However, as we approached an array of organizations – big organizations – as we dug into the details and reviewed patient counts or data completeness, they either didn’t have a sufficient number of patients, they didn’t have sufficiently complete data for our needs, and in the case where some did have sufficient numbers and complete data sets, they simply weren’t in a position to share that data outside their institution,” Dr. Labkoff said.

Undeterred, the MMRF switched tactics to the current, patient-centric approach.

“We’re leveraging one aspect of the HIPAA legislation,” Dr. Labkoff said, referring to patients’ rights to request their own medical records and an institution’s legal obligation to provide those records.

In the short-term, the registry will collect three types of data: patient donated data (answers from a patient survey), electronic medical records abstracted from all relevant past providers, and genomic test results. Participating patients will have blood drawn at home by a phlebotomist for the genomic assay. Additional tubes of blood will be concurrently collected and biobanked. This will eventually allow for immune profiling, Dr. Labkoff said.

Future goals include a patient-reported outcomes module and the ability to link data with medical claims.

So far, 79 patients have participated in the pilot program, according to the MMRF. As the database builds, Ms. Quinn Young and Dr. Labkoff anticipate that it will yield answers to a variety of real-world questions.

Dr. Labkoff offered two examples. “Of all the patients who have been exposed to ‘name your drug,’ what were the costs of their therapy, and what were the outcomes?” he said. In addition, researchers will be able to query clinical trial inclusion criteria to search for data on a specific patient profile, such as patients with a 4:14 translocation, who have had a bone marrow transplant in the last 2 years, and have been exposed to a certain drug regimen.

Ms. Quinn Young noted that doctors may be able to use the database to reliably identify high-risk patients and guide agent selection. Common patient questions also will be addressed, she said, including best treatment regimens for certain types of patients.

“For patients who may have run out of all commercially available options, or for patients who are perhaps seen at a community center, where certainly this type of profiling is not standard, it’s opening up a whole new set of options for them,” Ms. Quinn Young said. “And if their physician doesn’t pursue those options, they have the report that they can use to seek a second opinion.”

The Direct-to-Patient registry is unique because it aims to empower patients in a way that hasn’t been done before, Ms. Quinn Young said. “We are committed ... ever since we conceived of this project, to giving results back to patients. That is disruptive because right now that doesn’t exist.”

But the cost of implementing the registry, which has an approximate budget of $20 million, stands in the way of a completely free flow of anonymized data. MMRF leaders are exploring different strategies to sustain funding for the program.

Another MMRF program, CoMMpass, uses a precompetitive consortium model, in which several pharmaceutical companies pay for a preview of the data 6 months in advance of nonprofit researchers. A similar model may be used with the Direct-to-Patient registry, but this has yet to be determined, according to Dr. Labkoff and Ms. Quinn Young.

For now, Ms. Quinn Young said she hopes that physicians will be receptive to the program. “[The short term goal is that] when patients come to their doctors asking about this, that there is support and open-mindedness,” she said.

Looking to the future, Dr. Labkoff described how the registry could accelerate myeloma research, ultimately toward a cure.

“It is generally accepted that it can take 17 years to get something – a therapy, a new drug, or a guideline – from the bench to the bedside,” he said. “It’s my hope that we can take next generation sequencing and the results of this registry and bend that curve, maybe ... to 10 [years], or very aggressively, to 7 or 5 [years], where doctors are able to use the information in these reports for the patients that have literally given themselves, and use this to help guide the choices of their therapy or the trials they apply for, to help them get a better outcome in general.”

The Direct-to-Patient registry is a collaborative effort between the MMRF and multiple organizations, including the health care technology company COTA, the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Prometheus Research, Tempus, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

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