Taking a Leap in Cancer Diagnostics: Clarient Enters New Era in Molecular Tumor Testing, Drug Discovery Research

Anita T. Shaffer @Shaffer1
Published: Friday, Mar 09, 2012
Dr. Kenneth J. Bloom

Kenneth J. Bloom, MD Chief Medical Officer Clarient, Inc

When Kenneth J. Bloom, MD, began his career in pathology more than 25 years ago, the field of genomic and molecular diagnostics in cancer therapeutics was virtually nonexistent. Today, the sector is exploding and Bloom is at the forefront of efforts to develop new oncologic tools and bring them to clinical practice.

Bloom is the chief medical officer of Clarient, Inc, a once-fledgling company that GE Healthcare acquired in December 2010 for $425 million.

Clarient provides more than 350 diagnostic tests to assess and characterize tumors, including tests for BRAF, KRAS, and EGFR gene mutations, as well as the recently launched Clarient InsightDx Mammostrat test for breast cancer recurrence. The company also offers PATHSITE, an Internet-based service where physicians can view and manage digital images, patient case histories, and test results.

In December, Clarient announced a partnership with ACORN Research, LLC, a network of community oncology practices and hospitals, through which tumor-specific biomarker data for each new patient will be collected and analyzed under standardized protocols. The data will be used to personalize treatment for individual patients, as well as to build a databank of information about particular tumor types that can be used in clinical trials and other research.

Such developments are likely to mean a big jump forward not only for the Aliso Viejo, California-based company, but also for patients, according to Bloom.

“This is the perfect storm,” Bloom said in an interview. “All of the things that are necessary are coming together as one. We can really start bringing the highest level of care to every patient anywhere within the United States, and then eventually anywhere in the world. It is incredibly exciting.”

“It’s something that five years ago nobody could have contemplated,” he added. “If you were sick in rural Georgia, you would have to go to Atlanta. But those days are changing. You’re going to be able to get access to the same level of care no matter where you are.”

Bloom said GE ownership will boost Clarient’s ability to expand internationally, while the ACORN partnership will enable the company to compare outcomes with clinical trial results and conduct drug discovery research.

“To me, when we talk about personalized healthcare, it means giving healthcare locally,” he added. “It means you don’t pick up and travel 200 miles to some other institution where your family and friends can’t visit you and you undergo therapy in isolation. If that care could be given locally with your family and friends around you, that would be hugely advantageous. I think that’s what we’ve really been striving for all along, and it’s achievable.”

To me, when we talk about personalized healthcare, it means giving healthcare locally. It means you don’t pick up and travel 200 miles to some other institution where your family and friends can’t visit you and you undergo therapy in isolation. ”
–Kenneth J. Bloom, MD

Growing With Community Oncologists in Mind

The trends now shaping the cancer diagnostics field in some ways mirror the trajectories of both Bloom’s career and Clarient’s corporate evolution.

Now, as a result of the sequencing of the human genome and advances such as polymerase chain reaction and microarray technology, the options in genomic and molecular testing in cancer diagnostics are expanding dramatically.

“When I went through medical school, molecular pathology didn’t exist,” Bloom said. “So I got zero molecular pathology in medical school, zero molecular pathology in residency. It’s really only the last 10 or 15 years of my practice that molecular pathology has come to the forefront.”

Bloom, who became a member of the College of American Pathologists in 1987, held a number of positions related to oncology at Rush-Presbyterian- St. Luke’s Medical Center, now Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago, Illinois, for more than 20 years before joining US Labs as senior medical director in 2002.

Within a few years, the Irvine, California, cancer diagnostics company was purchased by industry giant LabCorp. Bloom, who moved on to Clarient in August 2004, said he shared Clarient’s philosophy of partnering with local pathologists rather than supplanting them with a centralized lab.

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