Ann Arbor, MI-based Strata Oncology this week announced a new partnership with the University of California, San Francisco, to provide $25 million in free tumor sequencing nationwide for men with metastatic prostate cancer.
Called StratifyProstate, the initiative aims to dramatically increase enrollment in relevant precision medicine trials, says Strata CEO Dan Rhodes. Despite the significant promise of targeted therapies, genomic testing remains expensive—the tests are not yet widely covered by insurance and are often inaccessible to patients who don’t live near a major cancer center or clinical trial, he adds.
“What’s unique about our partnership with UCSF is that tumor sequencing is no longer limited to specific hospitals,” Rhodes explains. “Free sequencing is available to any man in the U.S. with metastatic prostate cancer.” Clinicians from the university will be actively involved in the project, he says.
Last year, Strata raised $12 million in a Series A round to advance an observational study examining the impact of genetic sequencing on clinical trial enrollment. That trial, which was done in collaboration with Thermo Fisher, began in February at a number of clinical sites and is open to any cancer patient with solid tumors and lymphomas.
With StratifyProstate, testing is limited to eligible metastatic prostate cancer patients, but they can be located anywhere in the country. It also allows doctors not affiliated with the larger trial’s investigative centers to offer free tumor sequencing to their eligible patients. The test is focused on actionable genetic alterations, Rhodes says, and is analyzed in Strata’s Ann Arbor lab.
Rhodes says StratifyProstate is the first attempt to offer free sequencing for a specific disease and open it to as many as 10,000 patients. “Our belief is that most patients don’t get this test to know if they’re eligible for breakthrough clinical trials,” Rhodes adds. “We’re not satisfied with that. Our goal is to catalyze precision medicine.”
Strata and UCSF also want to help prostate patients specifically because precision medicine has been limited in that field. “The genetics of other cancers—in the lung or breast, for example—lend well to targeting. With prostate cancer, it was less clear. We see our efforts changing that,” Rhodes says.
Rhodes, who led Compendia Bioscience, a cancer genomics company that was acquired by Life Technologies in 2012, co-founded the 24-person Strata Oncology team in 2015 with Keith Flaherty, an oncologist from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and pathologist Scott Tomlins from the University of Michigan Medical School.
Rhodes says next month, Strata will announce the status of its various collaborations with pharmaceutical companies and health systems.