Bioscience

Start-up to link doctors, cancer patients online

June 5, 2008

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: Ken Alltucker, The Arizona Republic] – A Scottsdale start-up company wants to create a social-networking site that could link doctors and pharmaceutical companies to help get cutting-edge cancer treatments to patients.

The vision of MedTrust Online will develop a customized Web site and database that compiles medical literature, clinical trial information, treatment options and other data tailored to physicians who treat cancer patients.

MedTrust, a spinoff of Arizona-based TGen, believes the site will give doctors access to the best and most timely information that they do not always have access to now.

“We are trying to solve a problem that has been thrust upon the (medical) industry as a whole,” said Chris Yoo, the company’s president and chief executive officer. “Patients may not be getting the best options because there is a problem with communication.”

MedTrust formed last year and hired its first batch of workers early this year. The company now has eight employees and has raised nearly $3 million in venture financing from local investors. The company expects to gradually hire staff as it adds more customers.

So far, MedTrust has signed up one Texas cancer group, South Texas Oncology and Hematology, and is nearing agreement with three other groups, including one in Arizona, Yoo said.

MedTrust expects to launch a test site for South Texas Oncology and Hematology later this year. The company did not say how much it will charge doctors or pharmaceutical companies for the service.

Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, physician in chief of TGen (Translational Genomics Research Institute), will lead a panel of six oncologists who will look to identify and share information about new drug treatments. TGen has had more than a half dozen spinoff companies since in formed in 2002.

Backers say MedTrust aims to eliminate the “silo” mentality that exists in medicine with some top doctors not willing or able to share information on promising treatments. The Web site will draw from a wide variety of sources, including peer-reviewed medical journals and pharmaceutical databases.

The Food and Drug Administration restricts pharmaceutical companies from marketing drugs “off-label,” or for uses not approved by the FDA. Such restrictions are meant as safeguards so patients are not harmed by drugs that have not met the FDA’s safety and effectiveness measures. But some pharmaceutical interests believe these restrictions make it difficult to share information about potentially effective treatments.

Yoo said the company’s strategy is to create a link of sorts between willing doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

Now, doctors receive limited information from pharmaceutical sales representatives who give brief pitches for FDA-approved drugs. The database could give doctors a much wider range of information.

Ray Woosley, president and CEO of the Critical Path Institute in Tucson, agrees that sharing good, quality information about potential drug therapies can be challenging.

“Doctors are just overwhelmed with information and it is not packaged very well,” said Woosley.

“The challenge has always been getting the information to doctors at the time they are making decisions.”