Driving Scientific Engagement in the Era of Precision Medicine

Oncology is both the largest and fastest growing therapeutic area with new treatments being developed at a remarkable pace.1 There are more than 1,100 oncology therapeutics in clinical development in the United States alone, a 34% increase since 2015.2

The rapid growth of oncology innovation makes it challenging for treatment teams to stay current with the latest advancements. Medical affairs teams play an increasingly important role in educating and informing scientific experts on the latest advancements in oncology.

With the treatable patient population growing three-fold and medical literature doubling every three years,3 life sciences companies must rethink how they deliver information, tools, and educational programs. Decades-old treatment paradigms are evolving and oncologists require specific data to know which therapeutic intervention to administer at the right point in the treatment lifecycle.

Delivering Medical Education via the Cloud

The good news is that the cloud has matured to become an important enabler to efficiently increase awareness and deliver relevant medical education faster. By coupling cloud technology with precision medicine, the life sciences industry can partner with oncology care teams to deliver optimal patient outcomes—better, longer responses to treatment with the best possible quality of life.

“The one-size-fits-all approach does not apply to oncology. Key experts require scientific evidence and medical education that meets their specific needs, interests, and environment,” said Glen Morris, Worldwide Field Medical Business Solutions Lead at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

The cloud allows companies to share data compliantly with key experts while also providing new insights back to home office teams to inform ongoing research, data, and clinical needs. Morris added, “We know that many treatments require combinations and/or sequencing, not just delivering one drug the whole time. Technology has been traditionally used to support the old ways. But with modern cloud solutions and tactics like remote conversations that meet physician schedules and allow for in-depth back-and-forth conversation, we can now add greater value with these improved and more flexible engagements.”

Precision medicine is a trending approach for disease treatment and prevention that’s based on individual characteristics of each patient. The Cancer Genome Atlas, a project begun in 2005 to catalogue genetic mutations responsible for cancer, has accelerated precision medicine in oncology by generating multi-dimensional maps of genomic changes in more than 30 cancer types.

Datasets such as Cancer Genome Atlas are also helping to drive the rapid pace of innovation in oncology precision medicine. More than 85% of the oncology market is focused on targeted therapies, with significant investment expected to continue over the next several years. By 2024, worldwide sales for all oncology products will exceed $230 billion annually.4

As these highly complex therapies come to market, there will be a greater need for evidence-based scientific engagement with oncologists as well as all healthcare providers.

Precision Medicine Demands Precision Engagement

In the era of precision medicine, companies are able to arm care teams with greater scientific knowledge and more in-depth information than has been possible in the past. Medical teams can share access to key trial data, clinical best practices, and treatment management tools aligned to the provider’s interests, experience, patient population, location, career objectives, and other defining characteristics.

The most innovative medical affairs teams also extend education and engagement beyond just the individual oncologist to include additional diagnostic and research specialists, nurses, PAs, nutritionists, and other caregivers. The broader care team receives vital insights about treatments, including the myriad of clinical factors that drive better outcomes. These can range from identifying clinical sub-populations who might respond better to treatment modalities and sequences to defining better protocols for tolerability and compliance.

Data and Analytics to Transform Engagement

In this complex treatment landscape, scientific experts seek meaningful engagement from the industry. “Useful MSLs are the ones who proactively send us new information. This is extremely useful because it saves us time. They know what they need to do to meet my expectations,” says Enrique Grande, MD, Head of Oncology at MD Anderson Madrid Cancer Center.

The use of data and analytics can enhance the ability to develop deeper relationships with scientific experts. Traditionally, medical teams have pushed information to doctors based on the individual’s past activity in a given therapeutic area. Leading oncology-focused companies now leverage broader datasets and algorithms to drive a two-way scientific dialogue, based on the full picture of the expert’s past and current activities. By meeting the HCP at their particular career stage, in the setting where they are practicing, and in ways that support their current goals and interests, the medical affairs organization can create more meaningful interactions and long-term relationships.

Moving forward, life sciences companies have the opportunity to leverage the newest cloud-based data sources and communication tools to support dialogue with key medical experts. They will access and integrate modern, patient-centric data sources that can be shared with scientific partners to drive better patient outcomes. New technologies such as artificial intelligence will deliver valuable insights from large datasets that were previously difficult to analyze. The ad hoc, project-based approach to data collection and analysis will be replaced with dynamic tools that incorporate real-time information for ongoing access, even as lifecycle objectives change.

For the first time, the industry will have the opportunity to leverage big data sources that are accurate, complete, and always current; apply AI and data analytics technologies; and share insights directly with stakeholders across the therapeutic landscape. With these insights at their fingertips, medical science liaisons will be able to support oncologists and other specialists with greater speed and relevance.

Driving Better Outcomes

The goal and promise of precision medicine is to drive better patient outcomes through tailored treatment approaches. Technology offers industry a nimble and scalable engagement model that fuels better outcomes by pushing vital information to clinicians while pulling vital real-world insights back from key experts in the field. Some pharmaceutical companies are already seeing results. They identify and reach key experts with tailored information and high-value data, enabled by on-going updates from the cloud. With a shared engagement approach across teams and geographies, the content of expert interactions, as well as any new insights, is also shared internally with other relevant stakeholders.

Life sciences companies also have the ability to instantly follow up with the trial or real-world data that experts need, in the channel they request. Should new biomarkers, or data on new combination treatments or sequencing become available, medical science liaisons can react quickly to put that information into context for the caregiver.

A Future Empowered by Scientific Collaboration

The era of precision medicine is marked by bi-directional collaboration between industry and oncology care teams. The volume of scientific data and rate of innovation compels these once distant relationships to evolve into true partnerships. As companies shift their focus from brand-driven messages to science-based discussions, they also think more broadly about adopting technology to drive trusted partnerships with oncologists and help them make the best treatment decisions.

Using the cloud to drive a two-way relationship that meets healthcare providers where they are with the information they need while obtaining valuable real-world information is the key to driving deeper scientific engagement and better patient outcomes.


1. IgeaHub. “Top 10 Pharmaceutical Therapy Areas in 2017.

2. Meiling, Brittany. “PhRMA’s New Report Counts Each Cancer Drug in the US Pipeline”. Endpoints News. 30 May 2018.

3. Curioni-Fontecedro, Alessandra. “A New Era of Oncology Through Artificial Intelligence.” ESMO Open2017;2:e000198. doi: 10.1136/esmoopen-2017-000198

4. Evaluate Pharma. World Preview 2018 Outlook. June 2018.

  • Malia Lewin

    Malia Lewin is Director, Global Oncology Strategy of Veeva Systems. Lewin is a senior business strategist who has been working to accelerate the discovery and adoption of pharmaceutical and biotechnology products in the oncology and rare disease markets for more than 15 years.


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