Big Pharma consortium to share cancer trial data

By Nick Taylor

A consortium of leading pharma companies has initiated a project to share historic clinical trial data to speed cancer research. The database--dubbed Project Data Sphere--will use security and anonymization strategies to overcome privacy fears related to sharing patient information.

Project Data Sphere is the brainchild of the CEO Roundtable on Cancer Life Sciences Consortium, which lists a host of Big Pharma companies, CROs and top academic centers as members. In combination, the members are sitting on a treasure trove of data from previous cancer trials that could accelerate development of new therapies.

Sanofi ($SNY) CEO Chris Viehbacher heads the consortium. "Broadly sharing existing clinical trial data for the benefit of all researchers can be a key driver in speeding up cancer research efforts, encouraging innovation, and honoring those patients who have participated in clinical trials," Viehbacher told PharmaTimes. Consortium member GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) noted similar benefits when committing to share detailed trial data last week.

Access to a pool of historic data could improve population estimates for epidemiological work or allow for ready-made comparisons of different treatment regimens. Researchers have known of these potential benefits for years, but getting companies to share is tricky. Project Data Sphere began taking shape two years ago, PharmaTimes reports, but a formal launch is still months away. Spring 2013 is the current expectation.

In the past, concerns about giving away competitive advantages or violating patient privacy have held the idea back. Advances in data security and anonymization have helped overcome some of these fears. But there is also a recognition that something needs to change if pharma is to make major advances in treating cancer.

"It's taking $2 billion or more to bring a drug to market. At the same time, we've got about the same number of people dying from cancer that we did 30 to 40 years ago. We have got to get more innovative in how we develop cancer drugs," Sanofi oncology VP Charles Hugh-Jones said.

- here's PharmaTimes' article
- get more in the press release
- read Science's take