Digital tech crucial to success of cancer cell therapy – Novartis

Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan has made use of digital technology to support patients taking the company’s medicines a priority.

And Liz Barrett, CEO of the company’s oncology unit, told a conference that digital tech is helping deliver the company’s cutting edge cancer therapies.

Barrett was speaking at the Economist’s War on Cancer Europe conference in London, in a panel debate about opportunities and challenges in caring for patients with the disease.

With its Kymriah CAR-T cell therapy, Novartis is spearheading the introduction of a powerful and potentially curative therapy for certain kinds of leukaemia.

It also has a host of other cancer drugs on the market, and digital technology could help patients report adverse events, and allow them to be monitored in their own home for signs of trouble.

Liz Barrett

She told the conference on Tuesday: “We can engage patients in ways we have never done before.

“We can help them ensure that they take their medicines and help them report adverse events.

“It allows us to monitor patients remotely so that they don’t have to go into the doctor.”

With CAR-T therapies, digital technology is playing a leading role in the specialist centres set up across the country that administer the one-time therapy to patients, and treat the sometimes extreme side effects.

“We have to be much more engaged in centres providing this type of therapy, there are difficulties because we have to keep patients nearby.

“It requires engagement. Our focus on digital technology will help cancer centres deliver this therapy for patients, it will really allow them to make the most of their treatment.”

Improvements in analysis techniques, made possible by digital technology, could also help predict patients most likely to respond in the future, added Barrett.

Suzanne Wait, managing director of the Health Policy Partnership think tank, told the conference that digital technology and ‘big data’ will play an important role in supporting equality of access to medicines by promoting a more ‘joined up’ approach to care and helping to catch the disease early.

“The big challenge is making sure that every patient gets the same level of care. There are so many inequalities that are not justified and differences in survival rates within countries that should not be there,” said Wait.


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