Roche tackles clinical trial matching challenge

The Roche Tower (Roche)

Roche has introduced an app to help physicians match their patients to clinical trials. The app equips physicians to identify suitable clinical trials based on the age, gender, biomarkers and tumors of their patients.

Clinical trial enrollment is a long-standing problem for drug developers. In cancer, studies suggest less than 5% of patients enroll in clinical trials, despite many of these people having major unmet needs. There are many reasons the vast majority of patients never participate in clinical trials. The first barrier to participation is simple: Many patients are unaware clinical trials are open to them.

Roche wants to address that barrier by empowering physicians to easily access details of clinical trials relevant to their patients. The app compares age, gender and other patient-specific attributes to registries including to identify clinical trial options. 

Switzerland’s Roche is far from the first drug developer to try to tackle the task of matching patients to clinical trials. In 2014, Eli Lilly, Novartis and Pfizer teamed up to help the U.S. government make the information on readable by machines with a view to automating comparisons of the registry and the information held in electronic health records.

The Big Pharma initiative and other efforts have developed trial matching technology, but it is still a challenge for sponsors to get patients into studies. It remains to be seen whether Roche can make a dent in the problem, but the company believes there are reasons to think it is well equipped to do so.

“Roche is uniquely positioned to actively shape the digitalisation of healthcare,” Roche CEO Severin Schwan said in a statement.

Under Schwan’s leadership, Roche has put itself in that position through a series of deals. Roche is now the owner of oncology electronic medical record business Flatiron Health and genomic profiling company Foundation Medicine. By spending billions on these assets and making other investments, Roche thinks it will be better equipped to develop and deliver breakthrough medicines.