Almost 40 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, with the U.S. Cancer Society estimating that around 600K American citizens succumb to the disease each year. Thanks to the relentless efforts being made by researchers and the biotech and pharma industries to introduce advanced treatment modalities, cancer’s death rate has been reduced by 27% over the past 25 years, giving cancer patients increased hope for survival. But it’s still not enough.
Over the past decade, we have witnessed the evolution from evidence-based medicine to precision medicine, making it clear that ‘one-size-fits-all’ treatment protocols are not the way to conquer cancer. Although new personalized approaches are answering an evident need, many promises are being made in precision oncology that, without the right tools, can result in patients’ expectations not being met due to inaccurate solutions that have yet to prove their efficiency or have a low success rate. This leads to time and resources wasted, and patients’ conditions deteriorating.
A key reason for precision medicine falling short for cancer patients is due to the significant variation in how patients respond to cancer treatments.
Today, clinicians have an array of treatment options for their cancer patients. Based on traditional clinical trial designs, cancer treatment regimens are protocolized and based on patient populations that differ from the patients we see in the clinics due to strict inclusion criteria. As more treatment options become available, the clinical decision-making process becomes more challenging, to a point where in some cases, it’s a grueling guessing game. Depending on the indication and stage of the patient’s cancer, treatment, options can include targeted therapies and immunotherapies, in addition to the more traditional chemotherapy, radiation and surgery approaches.
Spotlight on Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy is currently one of the more popular areas of cancer research. Now a standard treatment for a growing list of cancers, immunotherapy has proven effective for treating several indications, including melanoma, small cell, and non-small cell lung cancers, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, head and neck cancers, and lymphoma. But there’s one statistic we cannot ignore: most patients are still not responding to immunotherapy.
Despite response rates sitting between 20 and 50 percent in certain groups, scientists still don’t know why the majority of people with cancer do not respond to immunotherapy drugs. This is due, in part, to a general lack of appropriate predictive biomarkers to guide and personalize cancer treatment decision-making.
To add to this, some patients receive immunotherapy treatment for six to nine months until a decision is made to change their treatment modality. This means that both payors and patients are paying for a drug that is ineffective, as well as the cost of adverse events and, most importantly, the cost of lost time. This approach is not sustainable.
The idea that immunotherapy works for some patients but not others is a huge research question that many researchers have been trying to understand for years.
The Prophetic Nature of Host Response Profiling
Prof. Yuval Shaked, head of the Integrated Cancer Research Center at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, discovered through his research that a patient’s biological response to anti-cancer treatment, known as the ‘host response,’ may actually facilitate and support tumor growth and spread. In what seems like a paradoxical reaction to treatment, our own body may actually help the tumor cells evade the effect of the cancer treatment. Over 15 years of research, Shaked discovered that host response is a universal phenomenon regardless of the treatment modality. This resulted in Shaked founding OncoHost to address this challenge.
At OncoHost, we have developed an AI-based platform called PROphet®, which utilizes advanced machine learning and bioinformatics technology to analyze the complex tumor-patient-treatment biologic interplay. Finally, clinicians and their patients can be provided with a clinically actionable ‘disease navigator.’
PROphet® addresses three clinical questions:
- Will the patient respond to their given cancer treatment?
- Why does resistance in cancer treatment occur?
- If the patient will be resistant to their given treatment, what is the recommended next line of therapy?
Using proteomic profiling, PROphet analyzes 7000 proteins in a series of patient blood samples, identifying proteomic patterns that indicate the expected patient outcome. The sophisticated technology characterizes, analyzes, and anticipates the patient’s response to treatment through a simple blood test. PROphet also predicts potential drug targets for intervention, as well as rationally based combination therapies, advancing the development of novel therapeutic strategies.
OncoHost’s proteomic profiling process helps physicians to successfully measure, monitor, and improve oncology treatments and guides health care providers in tailoring treatment plans for individual patients. It enables them to predict with confidence, if the treatment will work for each individual patient, optimizing patient care outcomes while reducing treatment costs and minimizing potential adverse treatment side effects. It means that rather than having to trial (and error) hundreds of potential treatment combinations, physicians can make informed decisions based on fewer viable options personalized to the patient in question.
OncoHost’s United States Presence
OncoHost is currently undergoing a multicentre clinical trial called PROPHETIC (Predicting Responsiveness in Oncology Patients Based on Host Response Evaluation During Anti-Cancer Treatments). The trial has multiple open sites in the U.S., UK, Europe, and Israel.
The goal of this research study is to develop an algorithm that predicts the patient’s treatment outcome, which will serve as a tool for physicians when making treatment decisions, specifically for stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and malignant melanoma patients receiving anti-cancer treatments. The investigators also aim to identify the metabolic pathways that could lead to better therapeutic options. The patients will be given their treatment according to their institute’s standard of care, providing two blood samples throughout the course of the trial. Clinical data is also collected from their medical records.
In addition to these sites, OncoHost will be opening further clinical trial sites, as well as a U.S.-based CLIA certified lab. Our goal is to make the PROphet test a “regular” for all cancer patients, allowing for specific direction to guide both physician and patient throughput their treatment journey.
While our clinical trials are currently taking place at specific U.S. hospitals, we are aiming to make PROphet available across the United States, leveling the playing field for personalized cancer care. With PROphet as a regular part of the cancer treatment journey, patients can know that they will receive the optimal treatment plan for them. Hospitals will be able to deliver more personalized treatment with the confidence that they will increase efficacy and reduce the chance of patient resistance – enabling their medical teams to provide a higher standard of care.
OncoHost is changing the entire patient care journey across the healthcare continuum, leveraging our advanced proteomic and AI-based host response science and machine learning platform to analyze, monitor, and predict progress in every step on the patient’s journey. The platform is saving and improving patients’ quality of life, elevating the patient’s experience with an accurate tool that provides peace of mind by reducing the unknown aspect of treatment, and at the same time, enhances clinicians’ decision-making abilities and cuts healthcare costs and external resources.
By delivering the right treatment and with early intervention to change course, payers will also see better outcomes and reduced costs, while most importantly, patients will suffer fewer side effects and see treatment levels improve.
View to the Future
Cancer remains among the leading causes of death worldwide, with an estimated 1.8 million new cases diagnosed in 2020, scientists and doctors are fighting against the clock to find new therapeutic approaches to beat this rife disease. We must arm them with the tools that can truly keep precision medicine on target. 
We hope to lead the precision oncology industry forward by allowing healthcare systems to better understand patients and how they and the tumor evolve over time in order to adapt and change the line of treatment in real-time. In this way, we plan to enhance clinicians’ decision-making capabilities with precise and individual treatment plans, improving the lifespan, and quality of life, for cancer patients in the U.S., and across the globe.
We continue to open additional clinical trial sites around the world and will be expanding our research to further cancer indications, including ovarian cancer, head and neck cancers, and urogenital cancers, with the aim of enabling early identification of non-responsiveness to cancer treatment and discovery of new targets to overcome treatment resistance. It’s time for personalized oncology care to actually be precise.
This is just the beginning.
Predicting Responsiveness in Oncology Patients Based on Host Response Evaluation During Anti Cancer Treatments (PROPHETIC) – NCT04056247
 Cancer Information and Resources. American Cancer Society. Online. Last accessed on November 29, 2021.
 Cancer Facts & Figures 2020. American Cancer Society. Online. Last accessed on November 29, 2021.
Featured Image and Image in text © 2021 OncoHost. Used with permission.