Ontada's EHR Tools Power Real-World Research Solutions in the Community Oncology Setting


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In an interview with Targeted Oncology, Robert Reid, MD, discussed how the utilization of Ontada’s solutions helps to improve community-based research across the field of oncology.

Medical technology: © tippapatt - stock.adobe.com

Medical technology: © tippapatt - stock.adobe.com

Innovative research solutions offered by Ontada are propelling the field of community-based research forward. According to Robert Reid, MD, senior medical director with Ontada, the organization’s unique approach streamlines data collection and analysis, enabling researchers to gather invaluable insights directly from the communities they aim to serve to help inform and improve patient care.

By bridging the gap between traditional research methods and real-world research based upon electronic health record (EHR) data, Reid explains that Ontada’s role can make a tangible difference in the lives of patients with cancer.

One way Ontada’s solutions significantly boost community-based research is through its oversight of the widely used iKnowMed®(EHR), which provides oncologists with a full picture of their patients' potential treatment options and helps identify those who received a biomarker-directed treatment on a given study. The efforts to continually optimize the EHR have parallel benefits to both patient care and clinical research. For example, the number of actionable biomarkers continues to grow, and it’s difficult to keep up with the constant change.

In an interview with Targeted OncologyTM, Reid discussed how the utilization of Ontada’s solutions helps to improve community-based research across the field of oncology.

Targeted Oncology: How long have you been involved in community-based research within the field of oncology?

Reid: For 26 years, I practiced with Virginia Cancer Specialists, a practice in The US Oncology Network, which is the largest network of its kind comprised of more than 2,500 independent providers committed to delivering integrated value-based cancer care to patients in a community setting. This experience allowed me the opportunity to engage in clinical research. One of the first studies in which I was involved was a combined modality trial in head and neck cancer, which was back in 1998.

How did your institution first become involved with Ontada's solutions?

I used iKnowMed® for many years in my medical practice. The growth of research in The Network and the commitment of physicians to bring good clinical trial opportunities to their patients led to the organic growth that facilitated the collaborations with Ontada.

Can you explain the specific solutions and tools that you find most valuable for community-based research?

Ontada has built an impressive research pedigree and as the company has grown, so have the offerings of tools that are critical to performing research. When it comes to specific tools, Ontada’s offerings range from different levels of data solutions for life sciences customers. For example, one may be interested in receiving a full outcomes-based research study for a specific disease, looking at not only drug utilization, but also tumor response and survival outcomes analyses. The report generated could be a proprietary document, a meeting abstract submission or a full-length journal article. Ontada's real-world research studies are unique in that they engage a principal investigator from The Network, providing an oncologist real-world lens to each of its studies.

What are the key benefits of using these solutions for community-based research compared with traditional methods?

Using real-world data, we have the ability and flexibility to customize patient cohorts according to a broader range of disease characteristics and biomarker profiles as well as patient social determinants of health, such as socioeconomic factors. Our study observation periods tend to continue much longer than needed for traditional studies. This affords us the opportunity to look at hard endpoints of overall survival and, time-to-progression and to supplant these measures with real-world endpoints such as time-to-next treatment in the case of advanced disease patient studies. In particular, the studies we perform reflect community-based cancer treatment provided by oncologists close to where patients reside. That reality underscores the value of real-world data, collected from the day-to-day care of unselected cancer patients. This data is of tremendous interest to our life sciences company customers. Ultimately, our research sheds light on where unmet needs persist despite the progress made with new breakthroughs.

Have you encountered any challenges while using these solutions? If so, how were they overcome?

One of the fundamental challenges in real-world data analysis is ensuring the data is research ready. As more data becomes increasingly available, we as researchers need to make sure that the data is complete and formatted in a way that it is easily incorporated into the EHR database. For example, the result for a blood test usually populates a patients flow-sheet quite easily, but that data can also be exported for research analysis. When it comes to pathology and radiology reports, or biomarker data from NGS testing labs, this data is often not easy to read or export in research studies. As we look to help quantize our data sources and code them in a manner that aids patient care and research simultaneously, we aim to improve the depth and breadth of information we can furnish to clinicians and life sciences customers.

Can you discuss any innovative solutions or features provided by Ontada that addressed specific challenges in your research projects?

The most relevant development is the evolution of our biomarker presentation layer which allows DNA and protein-based tumor molecular profiles to be available in a readable and searchable format.

Are there any upcoming research projects or initiatives where you plan to leverage Ontada's solutions?

We competitively applied for and were awarded a contract to work with the FDA to conduct a natural history study on rare cancers, including cancers that may present at a rate well below 10-50,000 cases per year. The development of new drugs for these orphan indications is hampered by access to large numbers of patients who can be studied in a controlled and systematic fashion. Due to the large size of The Network, we have access to cohorts of these patients for a natural history study. This study will describe how they are diagnosed, any biomarkers that may have been used in diagnosis and treatment selection, and how well they respond to available treatments. The data will be shared with the FDA as part of a large research project and published in peer-reviewed journals so that the information can be shared across the cancer community.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give to community oncologists wanting to learn more about this?

I would encourage physicians, in particular the newcomers at practices in The US Oncology Network, to look to their more experienced physicians in their practices to learn about research opportunities. Ontada’s work with life sciences companies also provides opportunities to engage clinicians in various educational initiatives. This may include Curbside Connect, a 1:1 engagement between a clinician and one of The Network’s specialists about a challenging disease scenario. It could also include educational guidance from the customer to a physician about a rare disease or disease variant regarding a recently developed treatment. The opportunities to participate in research exist, and we continually reach out to interested physicians to participate. Hopefully, as the technology continues to improve, the opportunities to improve patient care and clinical research will become more intuitive and part of clinicians’ daily work.

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