Merck survey finds patients willing to share NGS data with pharma companies

With pharma companies fretting about the cost of co-developing biomarkers for cancer drugs during early development, Merck ($MRK) staffers have proposed a novel solution: Pay for patients to have their tumors sequenced. Survey data suggest patients are open to the idea.

The Merck team outlined the concept in a paper in The American Journal of Accountable Care. The idea is that instead of investing in development of clinical-grade assays early in development, pharma companies pay for patients who are eligible for a clinical trial to have their tumors sequenced. Each patient would own their data and share it with the firm that paid for the test. While the model would still involve significant outlay, the authors think it would be cheaper than assay development.

As the approach is wholly reliant upon patients agreeing to share their data, Merck ran a survey with online cancer community Smart Patients to gauge their receptiveness to the idea. Of the 64 survey respondents who hadn't had their tumors sequenced, 63 would be willing to share their data with a pharmaceutical company for R&D in exchange for covering the cost of the test. Most of the patients who had already had their tumors sequenced were also willing to share their data.

The survey findings suggest patients are comfortable sharing their personal data if they know it is being used for R&D, especially if it means they are helped with the costs of sequencing their tumor. A caveat to the finding--which the authors note--is that as members of an online patient community, the survey respondents are likely to be more engaged with their disease than the average person. Even so, the overwhelmingly positive response suggests the idea may find favor among patients.

- read the paper