Mesothelioma patients now have a high-tech new way to connect with cutting edge mesothelioma treatments around the world – for a price.
A pair of Harvard-trained oncologists have just rolled out a new app that promises to connect people who have cancers like pleural mesothelioma with treatments and clinical trials that even their physicians may not be aware of.
The app, called Driver, is being rolled out this week in the US and China in the wake of a trial run with a hundred people over the past year.
How Might Driver Help Mesothelioma Patients?
One of the biggest obstacles faced by patients diagnosed with rare cancers like pleural or peritoneal mesothelioma is getting the most up-tp-date information about potential treatments.
Mesothelioma is a virulent cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Because it effects only about 2,500 new patients in the US each year, many oncologists have never even seen a case, let alone studied the new or experimental mesothelioma treatments.
Driver aims to help cancer patients, doctors, and researchers find all the available treatment options for cancers like mesothelioma, including clinical trials listed with the National Cancer Institute, the primary agency for US cancer research.
NCI is a partner with Driver along with a dozen top US cancer hospitals, and has validated its treatment matching system.
“In a world of Amazon, Airbnb, and other technology platforms that have revolutionized our ability to access products and services, consumers deserve the same power of these next generation marketplaces when they get cancer and need a treatment,” said Driver CEO Dr. William Polkinghorn, a former Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center radiation oncologist.
Using Driver to Find New Mesothelioma Treatments
In order to use Driver, mesothelioma patients must download the mobile app and give consent for the platform to acquire their medical records and lab results.
Driver labs in San Francisco and Southern China can analyze patient tumors, DNA, and other data and the app shows them the best treatments and trials for their specific tumors.
“What’s missing in this crowded, noisy ecosystem is something that takes the patient end to end, soup to nuts, and provides them with a comprehensive picture of what their options are and if they’d like to proceed by accessing those options,” said Driver co-founder Petros Giannikopoulos, MD, who graduated from Harvard Medical School with Dr. Polkinghorn.
Dr. Giannikopoulos was a pathologist at Harvard when the two came up with the idea for the platform.
Driver May Be Out of Reach for Some Mesothelioma Patients
Unfortunately, Driver’s services are likely to be out of reach for many mesothelioma patients, who may already be grappling with rising out-of-pocket medical costs. The full service, including tumor and records processing, treatment-matching, and referral to relevant specialists, carries a one-time price tag of $3000 and a monthly fee of $20.
Giannikopoulos says Driver, which is being backed by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, initially plans to help cover the cost of the products for underserved communities. That will not include travel costs if a patient wants to seek care at a distant hospital.
Mesothelioma patients can read more about Driver at the company’s website at Drive.xyz.
Ho, Catherine, “A second opinion on a cancer diagnosis, from the comforts of home — for a price”, September 5, 2018, San Francisco Chronicle
“Harvard Doctors Backed by Billionaire Try to Revamp Cancer Care”, September 5, 2018, Bloomberg News
Herman, Bob, “How a tech startup wants to connect cancer patients to treatments”, September 6, 2018, Axios