Sema4 Expands Research of Cancer Care Disparities Nationwide

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Artificial intelligence (AI)-driven genomic and clinical data platform company Sema4 announced it is expanding its disparities in cancer care study nationwide. The research, launched in 2021, has enrolled 226 patients at two sites in North and South Carolina, and will expand that to a total of 10 sites with the goal of enrolling 5,000 patients. As part of the study’s criteria, at least 30% of enrolled patients at each site must be part of an underserved minority community.

The REPRESENT (REsearch to advance PREciSion medicine and health Equity in oNcology Treatment) study enables access to comprehensive genetic and genomic testing for advanced cancer patients in underserved communities and will create one of the most diverse clinical-genomic datasets to help resolve racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in clinical trials, research, and therapeutics.

“Sema4 is committed to partnering with community-based oncologists to democratize access to somatic and germline testing in underserved communities,” said Eric Schadt, PhD, founder and CEO of Sema4. “We aim to break the cycle of inequity whereby underserved communities do not have access to precision oncology testing, and thus experience poorer outcomes, and are often excluded from clinical trials, research, and approved therapeutics. The question underlying the REPRESENT study is whether increased uptake of precision oncology testing in underserved populations will reduce disparities in health outcomes. The first step to answering this question is to create a dataset and biobank that reflect the United States’ true diversity.”

Disparities in healthcare access and a lack of diversity in clinical trials have led to significant disparities in oncology care. For example, African Americans have higher mortality rates than other racial and ethnic groups for many cancer types. REPRESENT aims to better understand the factors contributing to cancer care disparities in underserved populations, including socioeconomic and genetic considerations, by creating a diverse and comprehensive patient registry and biobank.

Sema4 aims to uncover insights into cancer biology and treatment relevant to these underserved populations by recruiting and offering advanced genomic testing to diverse patient populations. In the short term, testing data may open genetically tailored treatment options for patients enrolled in the study. The longer term goal is to use this information will to help guide drug development and clinical trials for underserved populations, potentially leading to better health outcomes.

“This is an unprecedented era in novel cancer therapies, but, unfortunately, precision oncology treatment is not delivered uniformly to all patients,” said William Oh, M.D., chief medical science officer at Sema4. “By better understanding the genomic landscape of cancer in underserved populations, we hope to enable personalized care and uncover treatment patterns within these communities and ensure patient diversity in the development of cancer research, trials, and therapeutics.”

REPRESENT is a prospective observational study that will enroll up to 5,000 advanced-stage cancer patients (up to 500 at each of a maximum of ten national trial sites). Data and samples gathered from consenting patients will be used to establish a clinical-genomic patient registry and biobank.

“The REPRESENT study will generate one of the most comprehensive repositories of clinical-genomic information available as a result of the range of molecular profiling techniques, clinical data, and diverse racial backgrounds involved,” said Kashyap Patel, M.D., president of the Community Oncology Alliance and CEO of the Carolina Blood and Cancer Care and study co-principal investigator. “Furthermore, by incorporating information on social determinants of health into our dataset, we have the opportunity to better understand the role of social support, education, housing, and other socioeconomic factors in contributing to cancer outcomes.”

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