Geisinger looks to targeted care

As its CEO prepares to step down, the health system's advanced EHR and clinical data repository offer 'a unique opportunity' for personalized oncolog
By Mike Miliard
02:36 PM

It was announced earlier this summer that Glenn D. Steele Jr., MD, president and chief executive officer of Geisinger Health System, will step down next June. Steele has led the pioneering health system since 2001 – a period that has seen huge advances in technology, with Geisinger making the most of them as it's deployed clinically and financially focused analytics projects that have been models for the rest of the country.

His leadership has been lauded by everyone from medical and industry groups to President Barack Obama himself, as the health system – and its health plan – works to uncover insights into better care delivery at lower cost.

"Leading Geisinger is one of the best opportunities I could ever imagine," said Steele in a press statement announcing his departure. "With the commitment and dedication of our employees, Geisinger has done well and is making a difference in evolving value-based health care across the country."
"Dr. Steele has done an incredible job of leading and growing the health system, as well as expanding innovative health care services for Geisinger's patients and members," said Geisinger Board Chairman William Alexander in a statement.

After he moves on – a search for a successor is already underway – Steele will continue on as chairman of xG Health Solutions, a Geisinger spin-off that works to help other providers develop programs to improve quality and reduce costs.

In the meantime, there's work to be done.

Geisinger also announced in July a new initiative that will offer patients access to advanced cancer treatment protocols and clinical trials. By partnering with Hamburg, Germany-based Indivumed, which develops technology for individualized oncology, the health system has set its sights on the "next generation of cancer treatment," according to Steele.

The project will see Indivumed partnering with Geisinger to collect samples from consenting patients who are undergoing surgical tumor resection, officials say. Upon resection, a portion of the tissue, blood or urine remaining beyond what is required to make a clinical diagnosis will be banked at Geisinger through MyCode, a repository that holds more than 45,000 patient samples.

Meanwhile, another portion will be banked by Indivumed, which will analyze the tissue to be used in the development and, eventually, application of targeted therapies for cancer patients.

Indivumed maintains a biobank of tissues and annotated data from more than 20,000 patients – with about 1,500 new cases added per year. It seeks to better understand the biological differences between tumors and how patients respond to treatment to support the implementation of personalized therapy.

Noting that the company is "a global leader in the field of biobanking and translational research," Steele said in a press statement the initiative "will give Geisinger patients access to the most advanced cancer therapeutics in the country, close to where they live and work."

Indivumed will integrate its biobanking standard at Geisinger to jointly develop a platform that offers extraordinary opportunities for clinical research focused on tumor biology.

"Geisinger's advanced electronic health record and clinical data repository coupled with our ability to comprehensively analyze patients' individual cancers provides a unique opportunity to quickly translate new scientific discoveries into the practice of medicine," said Hartmut Juhl, founder and chief executive officer of Indivumed, in a statement.

Research demonstrates that proteins change expression profiles significantly within minutes following surgical resection. Many of those proteins may serve as biomarkers for new drugs. For this reason, controlled and rapid tissue processing is necessary for understanding biological differences of or within patient tumors, especially when developing targeted therapies.

Indivumed's standardized processes enable it to limit cold ischemia time – the time between removal of tissue from the body and the time it is preserved – to less than 10 minutes, guaranteeing tissue samples of the highest biological integrity.

"The goal of this partnership is to translate clinical research into specific knowledge about a cancer that is clinically relevant and will enhance patient care," said Steele. "We continually strive to look for innovation opportunities to provide our patients with the most advanced care modern science has to offer."