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Landmark study led by Queen’s University Belfast, in collaboration with healthcare economists and researchers, presented at All-Island Cancer Research Institute Showcase

The All-Island Cancer Research Institute (AICRI) enables cancer researchers from across the island of Ireland to work together to deliver high quality research with health and societal impact.

The event, held in Dublin, was opened by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation, and Science Simon Harris.

The study was presented by Mark Lawler, Professor of Digital Health at Queen’s University Belfast, co-lead of the Higher Education Authority-funded North-South Research Programme’s eHealth-Hub for Cancer, co-lead of AICRI, and senior author on the research.

The study was led by Queen’s University in collaboration with a team of precision healthcare economists and researchers from Salutem Insight, Diaceutics, and King’s College London.

It shows how precision medicine can be a cheaper and more efficient way to treat cancer, and is the world’s first and most comprehensive study of the initial wave of precision oncology medicines in the marketplace.

The study examines the economic impact of precision oncology medicines compared to traditional oncology medicines. It found that it costs over $1billion less in R&D spending to develop an oncology medicine and guide it through clinical trials in a precision oncology approach, compared to a ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment.

The study suggests that using the ‘CDx-guided approach’, which uses a companion diagnostic to identify patients who are most likely to benefit from a particular medicine, increases the likelihood of a treatment being successful while also cutting costs.

The full findings have been published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice.

Commenting on the research, Minister Harris said: “This is exactly the type of work that we wish to encourage and support. It shows how an all-island approach can drive a research and innovation agenda that delivers both for patients and for society, emphasising both the health and innovation dividend of research.”

Prof Mark Lawler said: “This landmark study highlights how precision medicine can deliver affordable care for cancer patients. To date, the presumption has been that precision medicine is expensive and unaffordable, but our work suggests that there is a pathway that delivers both health benefit and value.

“Moving towards a precision oncology guided approach can deliver health benefits at a potentially affordable cost, including in the development phase, lowering expensive clinical trial attrition rates, and sparing patients from those treatments that are ineffective and may have significant side effects.

“If we don’t deploy a CDx-guided approach, we are missing a huge opportunity to deliver the best, most affordable care to our patients.”

Aedin Culhane, Professor of Cancer Genomics and Director of the Limerick Digital Cancer Centre at the University of Limerick, and co-lead of the eHealth Hub for Cancer, said: “This work highlights how we can deploy quality data to highlight the benefits and potential cost savings of a precision oncology approach.

“Treating patients based on their genomic make-up is the direction of travel that we should be pursuing, this study highlights how it can be achieved in an efficient and cost-effective way.”

Dr Raymond Henderson, Senior Health Technology Assessment Manager at Salutem Insights, and lead author on the paper, said: “This study emphasises how a precise health economic approach can provide the evidence base to underpin the delivery of precision oncology for patients.”

Peter Keeling, CEO of Diaceutics and co-author of the study, highlights the importance of these findings for the pharma industry: “Utilising this landmark financial analysis, we can, for the first time, postulate what might be the actual lifecycle advantage of recovering patients lost to the diagnostic pathway with an investment in better testing.” This study hypothesises that a $50million timely investment in better testing would potentially gain significant lifecycle revenues per therapy; for every $1million invested in better testing, an additional $100million+ in additional lifecycle revenues for that therapy could be realised.

Prof Lawler added: “However, despite the mounting evidence that precision oncology approaches appear to offer better value to the key stakeholders — payers, patients and the pharmaceutical industry, there are still barriers to be overcome that require a new operating model which enables these cost-effective, innovative treatments to reach all of our patients.”

William Gallagher, Professor of Cancer Biology at University College Dublin and co-lead, AICRI, said: “I am delighted to see this critical work clearly showing the benefit of cancer precision medicine presented at the AICRI Showcase event.

“Such studies are key to the mission of AICRI which is to create an overarching framework for cancer research across the island of Ireland, so as to better enable fast-tracking of new diagnostics and therapies into care.”