Evolving online resource classifies melanomas according to genetic subtype and provides treatment guidance.

CollabRx has published a molecular disease model of melanoma (MDMM) that classifies the disease into molecular subtypes and provides treatment guidelines for each subtype, including assays, drugs, and clinical trials. Developed through CollabRx’ Cancer Commons initiative, the model comprises a set of actionable molecular subtypes and proposed practice guidelines for treating each subtype, including which therapies (approved or experimental) should be considered and which are contraindicated. Details of the online MDMM resource are published in a PLoS One research article titled, “A Melanoma Molecular Disease Model”.

Melanomas are far more variable at a molecular level than they appear under the microscope, and genetic analyses of the disease have uncovered several key molecular pathways that are involved in disease onset and progression as well as prognosis, write CollabRx’ Smruti J. Vidwans, Ph.D., and collaborators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Stanford University. As a result, “rather than treating melanoma as a single disease, it makes sense to stratify tumors into molecular subtypes and treat each with the most appropriate therapies,” claims Keith Flaherty, Ph.D., director of development therapeutics at MGH and co-chief editor of the Cancer Commons Initiative.

The MDMM developed by CollabRx Cancer Commons initiative has been designed as an interface between the research and clinical communities. It categorizes melanomas according to subtypes, which are basically tumors containing the same set of primarily genetic molecular defects and their associated pathways. The MDMM model deems a subtype actionable if there is a CLIA-approved assay capable of classifying the tumor, and at least one FDA-approved or investigational targeted therapeutic with potential efficacy against that subtype. The online version contains additional in-depth information about relevant genes, genetic tests, pathways, drugs, targets, and clinical trials.

The developers admit that their baseline model will need to be revised with new clinical and scientific findings, as and when they emerge. “Existing types are likely to be split into new subtypes corresponding to responders and nonresponders, and new types are likely to be added to accommodate previously unseen tumor types,” they write. “Over time, this model will be defined with greater and greater specificity and linked to increasingly efficacious therapies.”

The MDMM is the first of a family of models planned by Cancer Commons, an open science initiative established by CollabRx. “We have an urgent need today for a new, personalized cancer treatment paradigm, one that exploits genomics to generate more information from every patient, particularly information about which drugs are likely to work best in specific patients,” comments Jay M. Tenenbaum, CollaboRx chairman and CEO, who has driven the Cancer Commons initiative. “Such an approach enables drugs to be tested with fewer patients, allowing us to leverage what we learn at the molecular level across many cancers and rapidly develop new off-label uses for approved targeted therapies.”

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