After receiving a cancer diagnosis, a patient often becomes overwhelmed in sorting their options. The sea of information about treatments and clinical trials is difficult enough for a medically trained professional like an oncologist to deal with.
For a patient dealing with a lack of medical knowledge and the emotional burden of diagnosis, the experience can be even more challenging.
Tzvia Bader, co-founder and CEO of TrialJectory, told Outsourcing-Pharma the company offers a platform designed to help cancer patients cut through the mountain of confusing information and find a more manageable path to treatment options, including trials. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to sort through databases to provide current, appropriate matches between patients and trials.
According to Bader, the creation of the technology and company comes out of her own experience as a patient. Nearly 7 years ago, she was a successful tech executive and mother when she received her cancer diagnosis.
“My status changed from techie to executive, from mom to cancer patient. It was a weird and scary feeling,” she said. “I had lost my mom to cancer 20 years prior. I knew I needed a better outcome.”
Bader, who describes herself as a “take the lead” type of person, decided to adopt a proactive approach and explore her options herself. However, when she jumped into research, she was surprised at how the landscape from when her mother was sick two decades earlier compared to present day.
“What shook me was that so much has changed since the days my mom was sick, in terms of options. Still, little has changed in terms of actionable information available to the patient,” she said.
Bader said her research uncovered a stunning amount of information about her disease, but much of it was confusing, and litle of it useful in informing her treatment decisions. Her oncologist, she said, remained her sole path for viable options. Even though she lived near New York City and a wealth of health resources, the pickings in terms of appealing choices were slim.
“When you go to a particular facility, they only present you with the options that they know of. As a patient, you’re thinking, ‘What am I supposed do now? Just take what they offer me? Shop around? If I get different options, how do I know what’s right for me?’ The language is scary,” she told us.
Frustrated, Bader reached out to a friend (now her partner at TrialJectory) who was a cancer researcher at New York University to help her navigate her options and understand them in a more meaningful way. She ended up undergoing five different surgeries after that exploration, and participating in three trials.
“That ended up saving my life,” she said.
She decided a more navigable, “TripAdvisor type of tool” could provide more user-friendly, actionable information to cancer patients, and a better way to connect them with trials and treatment options. With consumers able to find out a treasure trove of data about nearly anything they want to know about, Bader said, cancer patients should have that same level of information about their treatment.
“If you think about the era that we live in, there’s been a democratizing in terms of access to information,” she said. “Go onto Kayak.com, and you see tons of flight options. If you go to Hotels.com, you see all sorts of all relevant information to help make decisions. The TrialJectory promise is to do the same with cancer treatment, to allow smart and quick access to information.”
Its online marketplace empowers patients and their doctors with the ability to pinpoint information, get access to advanced cancer treatment options, and get a glimpse at other patient journeys to help provide perspective. The idea, Bader said, is to harness AI to help cut through the overwhelming bottleneck of complex data and details to provide a clearer, more navigable path to treatment.
Bader told us that while there are more options for cancer patients, and an ever-expanding range of new drugs and treatment available, the road to treatment choices is getting harder to travel.
“The art of matching a patient to treatment is becoming more complex. It’s hard for doctors to keep up with the activity,” she said. “TrialJectory is solving that by using AI solutions to solve problems.”
Bader added the platform is beneficial to pharmaceutical companies seeking recruits for their trials, because it enables them to access patient info and data that they currently might not be able to obtain.
The platform also offers cancer doctors an easier-to-use way to connect their patients with clinical care options.
“There are about 17,000 different recruiting trials, and each has 30 to 40 eligibility criteria--maybe that could be cut down, but the majority are necessary,” she said. “We are trying to make a better match ahead of time and take into account disease variables.”
She added while it can take an oncologist days to comb through the FDA database of trials, that grueling research takes valuable time away from seeing patients. The use of the TrialJectory returns that time to them, she said.
Bader said another goal of the TrialJectory platform is to put the focus back on the patient.
“The tools that exist for patients in trying to get to options, they are just lists based on location and indication type. Someone needs to go and read all that medical language, to see if it matches patient profile, and that can be read and understood by patients. It’s a deadlock,” she said.
The complexity and amount of information provides emotional barriers to patients, time barriers to oncologists, and informational barriers to pharmaceutical firms, Bader said. The AI platform overcomes those by providing patients with an easier way to connect with options, reducing the time oncologists must take to search, and providing useful data to pharma firms.
Additionally, Bader told us, if patients using the platform have additional questions, it provides answers. It also helps them kick off their treatment once they decide upon an option.
Recently, Bader said, a Denver woman with recurring metastatic cancer turned to TrialJectory.
“She needed to do something different—her oncologist offered one standard of care, but she needed more,” she said. “She heard about us, met with us, and she quickly went from having one option to suddenly having four options to choose from.”
“She went to her oncologist on the day she was to start treatment, and her doc said, ‘This makes more sense.” Ten days from then, she started a trial,” Bader told us.
Bader told us the company is constantly working to optimize its AI technology, to streamline its operation and make better matches to treatment. Additionally, she said, they plan to add new cancer types to the platform over the next few months.
“We’re driving more options to patients,” she said.