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Spit Happens! Genentech and 23andMe Team Up to Advance Genomic Testing in Clinical Trials

2 Mins read

(Editor’s Note: John Nosta writes for Forbes under the heading, “Health Critical”)

Has genomic testing come of age?

(Editor’s Note: John Nosta writes for Forbes under the heading, “Health Critical”)

Has genomic testing come of age?

I’m sure you’ve seen or heard the 23andMe commercials.  It’s the consumer-focused genomic testing service that, for $99, will analyze your DNA to provide an informational profile of hundreds of health conditions and trails.  The key word here is “informational”.  These data are interesting, yet the exact clinical significance, in many instances is uncertain.  It’s the combination of this information with the combined wisdom of the medical community that can empower 23andMe.  However, 23andMe is now teaming up with Genentech to profile a broad group of patients exposed to the Genentech drug Avastin (bevacizumab).  The new consumer campaign is all about spit–and leverages the “playful ease’ of getting a saliva sample that is rich with data–and dollars. The video is a Genentech-lead effort around their InVite Study and is a important step forward in genomics.

Additionally, 23andMe is also launching a new campaign national campaign entitled Portraits of Health. Together, both voices are worth noting and, and in my opinion, mark an important inflection point in helping get genomics on the healthcare map of clinicians, patients and caregivers.

These new initiative will help Genentech more deeply into the subtle aspects on cancer and also allow 23andMe to enrich the body of data to support the value of their services and the role genomic testing as a main-stream modality in medicine.  It’s a win-win for both companies.  But the real winner might just be patients who can benefit from what this study reveals.

Simply put, the information in spit may help explain why some people respond well to a medicine used to treat certain types of cancers. With that in mind, the team at Genentech partnered with 23andMe to create the InVite Study and rethink cancer research. InVite is a first of its kind, pilot observational study that analyzes genetic information received from people who took the medicine Avastin for certain types of cancer, and determines if a person’s genes could play a role in how they respond to treatment. The primary goals of this study are to determine if people are willing to participate in a web-based research model and to determine the effectiveness of gathering information through this method. Participants in the study are asked to send a saliva sample for genetic analysis, potentially provide a blood sample, and participate in an online survey to answer questions about their cancer and experience with Avastin. The study opened for enrollment in March 2012 and aims to recruit 1,000 patients. Several important patient advocacy groups have supported recruitment of the study and Genentech recently launched the Spit4Science video to aid efforts.

The idea for this study resulted from a discussion between Dr. Hal Barron, chief medical officer at Genentech/Roche and a woman who had been treated with Avastin for advanced breast cancer who asked how people like her could help advance ongoing research. A simple, yet powerful patient engagement and very much along the lines of the quantified self that has been a frequent topic in this blog.The InVite study is part of a broad initiative at Genentech to explore new and innovative ways to develop medicines.

All part of the digital health revolution

From genomics to personal devices, the almost passive collection of data combined with a most active and robust analysis is part of the exciting news in health and medicine.  The stakeholders, including pharma, patients, caregivers, advocates and many others, are all part of the evolving mix that again establishes the important role of the patient and the integration of technology in care.

Original Post 

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