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Prostate Cancer Lab #44: Interpreting RNA Seq Data to Identify Treatment Options (David Hysong and Katherine Arline, SHEPHERD Bio)

“RNA seq is a superior data source to DNA. It’s capturing a much more robust, complex system of information.” – David Hysong

“When we start looking at a patient or an asset, we do so from a completely agnostic approach, allowing the data to tell us the full impact and where therapies will be most effective.” – David Hysong

“I’ve been around a lot of patients, and I was a caregiver. It’s pretty easy for me to step into your shoes and say, in all honesty, I would do everything.” – Katherine Arline

Meeting Summary

Advanced (refractory and metastatic) cancer patients and their caregivers and doctors often have no standard (NCCN guidelines) treatment options, FDA-approved therapeutics, or any informed protocol from which to draw. The approach of finding unusual driver genes through DNA sequencing and matching mutations with targeted therapies is not available or meaningful for most patients. For these reasons, many advanced cancer patients may face few to no treatment options, have a disease that is different from what it was at diagnosis, and have limited information that can be leveraged to treat their disease.

In response to the above problems, advanced cancer patients must search for more biomarkers, for example, by getting their whole genome sequenced (20,000 genes, not the 500 genes in a typical DNA sequencing panel), sequencing their transcriptome (RNA), and gathering data about their proteins. This expanded approach enables most patients to find treatment options. This additional data, however, creates a new problem: interpreting it and turning it into personalized treatment recommendations.

David Hysong, founder and CEO, and Katherine Arline, Chief Strategy Officer and DELVE Architect, at SHEPHERD, are uniquely qualified to help advanced cancer patients interpret these new data sources to make complex treatment decisions. SHEPHERD is developing algorithms and a system (DELVE) that bounces each patient’s unique profile against the RNA/DNA impact signature of a growing list of more than 400 cancer drugs to identify high potential treatment matches. By analyzing the DNA/RNA impact of drugs, they can identify novel off-label repurposing of existing approved drugs. They work with a growing list of treating oncologists at hospitals, such as Mayo Clinic and Massachusetts General.

What do you get from a SHEPHERD RNA analysis?

The goal is to recommend the one best option for you, which is often a novel drug combination. The report highlights how the DELVE-identified targets compare to known targets and drugs, pointing ideally to FDA-approved drugs, with clinical evidence or literature that can help support the recommendation.

Why would a patient want to get their RNA analyzed?

Many advanced cancer patients are getting DNA testing, which identifies mutations which can be targeted by specific drugs. But there are also cancer patients who don’t get any or only a few treatment options through DNA analysis. RNA analysis can identify more treatment options.

How can you access an RNA analysis from SHEPHERD?

The full rollout of DELVE to the general public is coming sometime this summer. In the meantime, you can email, they will work with you to have your RNA sequencing data (from a company like Tempus) sent to them, and they will generate the report.

How much does it cost?

A SHEPHERD analysis and report will be priced similarly to other precision medicine services and dependent on whether a patient needs sequencing or already has recent raw RNA data that can be used. SHEPHERD believes that survival should never be a financial privilege and that every patient deserves access to the very best medicine available. No patient will ever be turned away for financial reasons.

The information and opinions expressed on this website or platform, or during discussions and presentations (both verbal and written) are not intended as health care recommendations or medical advice by Prostate Cancer Lab, its principals, presenters, participants, or representatives for any medical treatment, product, or course of action. You should always consult a doctor about your specific situation before pursuing any health care program, treatment, product or other course of action that might affect your health.

Meeting Recording

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