Biotech Strategy Blog

Commentary on Science, Innovation & New Products with a focus on Oncology, Hematology & Cancer Immunotherapy

Posts tagged ‘CRO’

I was supposed to be at the Innovation in Healthcare Symposium today at MIT in Cambridge, MA, but the winter ice storm that’s set to hit the North East has forced me to change my plans and return early from Boston to New Jersey. I am hoping to outrun the storm this morning (unlikely I know).

Hopefully, the presentations will be videoed and uploaded to You Tube or Webcast. Having traveled to Boston specially, I’m disappointed not to be able to write about the Symposium as planned.

A hot topic that came to my attention courtesy of an article in the Irish Medical Times, is how companies are handling incidental findings in the medical images they obtain during clinical trials.  To me, this is the flipside of innovation in that it often yields both positive and negative consequences.

Innovative medical imaging such as positron emission tomography (PET), Optical Coherance Tomography (OCT) and Dynamic Contrast-Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging (DCE-MRI) are now widely used in clinical trials, and have opened the door to new ways to visualize joints, blood vessels, organs and tumors.  This innovation is leading to the development of imaging biomarkers such as reduction in joint space or reduction in tumor size that became surrogates for drug efficacy.

However, in the process, these clinical trial medical images are generating “incidental findings” (IF).  An incidental finding is something that shows up in a medical image obtained during a clinical trial, but is not related to the clinical trial protocol or study objectives.  The challenges is that what the reviewing radiologist sees may impact the health of the subject, making it an ethical issue not only for the reviewer, but for investigators and sponsors such as biotechnology companies.  How companies handle incidental findings in clinical trial imaging is a hot topic at the moment.

Part of the debate is to whether this is something that companies should worry about, given that we are talking about may be a relatively low incidence.  A September 2010 paper from Fletcher et al, “Incidental Findings in Imaging Research,” published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, reported that 39.8% (n=567) of 1426 research medical images showed an incidental finding. Of these, in only 6.2% was clinical action taken upon the IF and in only 1.1% (n=6) was there resulting clinical benefit to the patient.  This raises the questions of to what extent there is an obligation to report findings, who pays for this, and whether it is ethically necessary?

The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NBIB) has published recommendations, that states researchers should anticipate incidental findings and have a policy to deal with them.

If I were a biotechnology company looking to hire a Contract Research Organization (CRO) or other outsourcing company for central review of clinical trial images, one of the questions that I would ask is what is their policy for handling incidental findings?

While innovation in medical imaging provides new ways of measuring and detecting disease, this innovation also generates unanticipated data that has to be addressed.

My theme for blog posts this week has been the diagnosis and detection of Alzheimer’s Disease, a therapeutic area I was first introduced to while working as a Global Project Director at the Canadian CRO, CroMedica before it was acquired by PRA. The then CEO of CroMedica, Erich Mohr Ph.D is now Chairman and CEO of MedGenesis Therapeutix Inc. in Victoria, BC.

This privately held biopharmaceutical company is working on developing new products for neurological diseases and the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) and Intractable Epilepsy. I have added MedGenesis to my list of emerging biotechnology companies to watch, and look forward to writing further as their pipeline develops.

Which brings me back to Alzheimer’s disease (AD), an area which I think will touch many of us as we and our parents become older. Last week, I was visiting my elderly mother in England who struggles to remember when I am visiting, and has little or no short term memory. It’s sad to see her in a restaurant have a completely blank face when she goes up to a buffet, then cannot remember where she was sitting.

While we all have age-related decline in our memory as we get older, how do you know if it may be something more such as AD? The Alzheimer’s Association have published a useful list of 10 warning signs, that may suggest seeing a doctor:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar task at home, at work or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or space
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood or personality

While there is no cure for AD, early diagnosis using biomarkers (see my blog post on Lilly’s florbetapir and blog post on Novartis’ Aß40 oligomers), could lead to slowing disease progression as new therapeutic agents come through development to market.

Dementia, AD and other cognitive disorders are challenging for caregivers and family’s to deal with. In many ways a tangible, physical illness is easier.  Not knowing the rate of progression and the future, it is difficult to plan ahead. Helping my elderly mother maintain her independence in the face of the mental challenges she faces is something that we as a family have to face up to, as I am sure many others will too.

Welcome to the biotech strategy blog which provides commentary and insight on current news and emerging trends in biotechnology.

As a strategy and marketing consultant with a background in clinical development I am interested in how biotechnology companies grow, manage alliances, partner with CROs and bring new products to market. I hope that you will find posts on this blog to be informative and interesting.

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