National Cancer Research Month: How Sema4 is Using Data-Driven Insights to Improve Lung Cancer Care

May is National Cancer Research Month. The American Association for Cancer Research created the awareness month to highlight the importance of lifesaving scientific studies for those affected by the disease. Cancer research is a critical component of Sema4’s mission to advance healthcare through data-driven insights. We recently published two papers on how such insights can be leveraged to improve treatment for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (aNSCLC). Today, we’re featuring one of those papers, which shows the impact of race and ethnicity on treatment response.

According to our study, published in The Oncologist, African American patients with aNSCLC respond significantly better to PD-1 and PD-L1 inhibitors than white patients. The study used real-world data (RWD) to investigate the impact of race and ethnicity on treatment response in aNSCLC.

While the differential response is potentially good news for African American patients, the findings highlight how racial disparities in randomized clinical trials can produce an incomplete picture of treatment response. Minority races and ethnicities are significantly underrepresented in trials, raising the question of whether results generated from a homogenous cohort can be generalized for patients of diverse races and ethnicities.

To address this question, Sema4 scientists used RWD analysis to conduct a retrospective cohort study of more than 11,000 diverse patients. Sema4’s research is centered around extracting and analyzing data from large datasets to generate artificial intelligence (AI)-driven insights into human health and disease. The study team used this approach to evaluate the impact of race and ethnicity on response to treatment with PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitors in patients with aNSCLC.

RWD are routinely collected during patient care and stored in electronic medical records (EMRs) and databases. The researchers, headed by Sema4’s SVP of Bioinformatics R&D, Dr. Rong Chen, analyzed RWD from the EMRs of more than 11,000 patients. They found that 249 of the patients had aNSCLC and received anti-PD1/PL-L1 therapy. Around a third of the 249 patients were African American – a significantly higher proportion than in the randomized clinical trials for these drugs.

Using Sema4’s advanced informatics, powered by CentrellisTM, our innovative health intelligence platform, Dr. Chen’s team curated the patients’ treatment responses by analyzing the language used in their EMRs. They found that the time-to-treatment discontinuation and overall survival time were significantly longer in the African American patient population than in the White patient population. A possible reason for these better outcomes was the lower incidence of putative hyper-progressive diseases following treatment in the African American group.

Our study demonstrates that RWD analysis can generate data-driven insights, which augment clinical trial information to build a more complete picture of treatment response. It is the first study to suggest that race or ethnicity may predict response to anti-PD1/PD-L1 therapy in aNSCLC patients.

Want to know more about Sema4’s precision oncology research? Stay tuned for another post soon, covering our second recent study into how data-driven insights can be leveraged to improve treatment for patients with aNSCLC.

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Sema4’s advanced analytics also drive our comprehensive precision oncology solutions. Learn more here. If you would like additional information about these solutions or our oncology research, please fill out the contact form below.