July 11, 2016 — In the spirit of collaboration inspired by the Vice President’s Cancer Moonshot, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense (DoD), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are proud to announce a new tri-agency coalition that will help cancer patients by enabling their oncologists to more rapidly and accurately identify effective drugs to treat cancer based on a patient’s unique proteogenomic profile.
The APOLLO Network — Applied Proteogenomics OrganizationaL Learning and Outcomes — will look at both a patient’s genes (genomic analysis) and the expression of these genes in the form of proteins (proteomic analysis) to create the nation’s first system in which cancer patients are routinely screened for genomic abnormalities and proteomic information to match their tumor types to targeted therapies. Initially, APOLLO is focusing on a combined cohort of 8,000 cancer patients within the nation’s two largest healthcare systems — the VA and DoD — with the aim of expanding the program to additional cancer types and making findings available to physicians across the country.
APOLLO is starting with lung cancer to address the pressing need of treating a form of cancer that is pervasive and prevalent among about veterans and service members. Approximately 8,000 veterans are diagnosed with lung cancer each year in the VA’s Veterans Health System alone.
The power of collaboration
The collaboration brings together the scientific and technical capabilities and facilities in DoD’s Murtha Cancer Center, the VA’s Veterans Health System, and the NCI’s Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium.
The main difference between the APOLLO Network and the status quo is acceleration of federal efforts in the relatively new field of proteomics. The APOLLO Network makes possible a quicker pace and higher level of resources devoted to proteogenomics, which is now the keystone to everything the VA and DoD will be doing in precision oncology.
Spurred by the NCI, genomics has launched a revolution in precision oncology by identifying targetable mutations in cancers. Unfortunately, there is still key missing biology when trying to reliably predict which patients’ tumors respond to any given therapy. This is likely because molecular drivers of cancer are derived not just from DNA, but also from proteins. Knowing more about a patient’s proteins should enable us to better predict how cancer will respond to a specific, targeted chemotherapy or combination therapy. A critical next step in the evolution of precision oncology is to continue to study what we are just learning in proteogenomics to identify the protein pathways and gene mutations in a tumor that drive cancer growth that can be vital to selecting targeted therapies more precisely.
Beyond the genome
This is an exciting time for the field of proteogenomics. The VA, DoD and NCI are eager to get the APOLLO Network fully operational so it can start impacting cancer treatment decisions in the VA and DoD. Initially, the APOLLO Network will study proteogenomics in lung cancer patients as part of their oncologist appointments to determine whether this analysis yields results in identifying treatment plans that are more effective and efficient. There are many other “omics” to study and it will take many years to fully understand the biology of cancer. APOLLO Network will provide insight on the success of moving into the field of proteogenomics as a meaningful way to treat lung cancer patients with the promise of being able to quickly extend into other cancer types if proven to be successful.
Bringing advancements in technology and science directly to our patients, and engaging researchers, clinicians and patients is at the heart of what will make APOLLO Network successful and meaningful to patients. The VA, DoD and NCI are in full support of the noble goals of the Cancer Moonshot, and are inspired and excited by the promise that APOLLO Network can bring to ending cancer as we know it.