GE puts cancer in the crosshairs

GE’s SenoCase portable mammography concept could fold up into the size of a large suitcase.

New Healthymagination initiative enlists imaging, mobility and HIE in battle against breast cancer

NEW YORK – When you're one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world, you can afford to make big statements – pitting big money and big know-how against big problems.

That's just what GE is doing with a new multi-pronged, five-year, $1 billion initiative meant to speed breast cancer innovation, improving diagnostics and care for 10 million people worldwide.

"We envision a day when cancer is no longer a deadly disease," said Jeff Immelt, GE’s chairman and CEO. "When you add our cutting edge cancer detection technologies to the innovative ideas of our new partners, it's a powerful formula for tackling cancer and helping doctors and researchers improve care."

One of the centerpieces of the project is a $100 million open innovation challenge, launched in conjunction with several venture capital firms, to identify and bring to market ideas that advance diagnostics – especially for triple negative breast cancer – a more aggressive and less responsive form of the disease. Researchers and entrepreneurs are encouraged to devise new ways to map molecular structures of breast and other solid tumors, with an eye toward better diagnosis and more personalized therapies. (Submissions will be accepted through November 20.)

But on the health IT front, two of the more exciting areas of innovation have to do with imaging, mobile health and health information exchange.

One of the facets of the Healthymagination initiative is the development of a so-called "super database" that can consolidate clinical, pathology, therapy and outcomes data in one place. Currently in development alongside research, NGO and government organizations, the database will make use of cancer data from GE' subsidiary Clarient, its Medical Quality Improvement Consortium, the Premier healthcare alliance and the Department of Health & Human Services, all with an eye towards "fingerprinting" the different tumors in each individual patient.

"We think this is the right time," says Lisa Kennedy, Healthymagination's director of strategic marketing. "Given the sequencing of the human genome, I think we're on a big tipping point right now in oncology."

We'll learn more in the next five years about cancer than we've learned in "probably the last hundred," she says – and the way to help bring that about is to truly make use of vast and often underutilized stores of data. "We're now in the position where we have a lot more data then we really have the power to analyze. And every minute we're adding more and more. We think there is an opportunity to put everything in one place."

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