GE Healthcare Camden Group Insights Blog

There Isn’t “A” Cure for Cancer. There Are 7.4 Billion

Posted by Matthew Smith on Sep 12, 2016 10:33:19 AM

By John Flannery, President and CEO, GE Healthcare

This summer, John Flannery started a top ten list on LinkedIn, highlighting his thoughts on how healthcare is transforming around the world. Read his fourth reason, below, and also catch up on the rest of the series here

I was recently told a story about a young patient in the U.K. He was a teenager when he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma – a teenager with deadly skin cancer. Multiple rounds of chemotherapy followed by targeted drug treatments yielded no results. He developed metastases to his brain and tumors grew in his lung and chest. Breathing was difficult. He was given weeks to live.

We’ve heard the tragic stories too often. Everyone knows someone. We know how it ends.

Or do we?

In a last effort, this patient’s case was sent to Dr. Robert Hawkins, PhD and CEO of an advanced lab in Manchester. There, the patient’s immune cells were genetically modified, incubated for days, while they multiplied in number. Soon these microscopic cells that had been super-programmed to do what they do best – fight disease – were injected back into the patient’s body to find and attack the cancer cells.

Today marks four years since this teenager’s incurable cancer has disappeared completely. This is the promise of cell therapy in action.

Cell therapy, in which immune cells are removed from a patient and reprogrammed specifically to identify and destroy the cancer in the very body from which they came, is part ongoing research and part reality. Institutions like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are making major investments in its future, while clinicians like Dr. Hawkins are proving its value in real-time.


If this rapidly growing field of personalized medicine continues its current transformation, the long sought after cure for cancer may not be one cure at all. It may be many possible cures in the form of cell therapies customized for each and every human in need. With 7.4 billion people in the world, we can imagine the multitudes and combinations of cures that are out there.

But each individual therapy often needs to be handmade specifically to each patient. And the process required to extract, transfer, grow and reintroduce the cells into the patient involves advanced technology and manual interaction. Because this field is still developing, researchers have traditionally gone about sourcing different pieces of the medical equipment from different places and then bringing them all together to build a homegrown production process.

This isn’t efficient enough to manufacture billions – or even millions or thousands – of therapies at once. Not fast enough to win the war on cancer.

The challenge then is to make the story of the teenager with melanoma the new normal, not one of the few successes.

GE Healthcare plans to answer that challenge. We’re working to build a start-to-finish solution for cell therapy, a single cohesive toolset that hands providers tools to efficiently and more rapidly manufacture these treatments and deliver them to patients. 

Dr. Hawkins' lab, for example, already has installed the first tool in this box, GE’s Xuri™ Cell Expansion System, a bioreactor that serves the step in the manufacturing process of expanding cells, but with a smaller small physical footprint in the lab.

The biggest step perhaps came in July, when GE Healthcare acquired a major innovator and supplier of integrated cell bioprocessing systems, Biosafe Group SA. Together, our Life Sciences business and Biosafe’s applications in cord blood banking, cell therapy and regenerative medicine will bring us closer to building one complete ecosystem of tools for cell therapy.

On top of this, a brainchild of GE Ventures and Mayo Clinic focused on manufacturing services, Vitruvian Networks, is providing cell therapy producers with data and analytics to continue to improve the efficiency and commercial scalability of these therapies.

The field of cell therapy is young and constantly evolving. It will see many changes along the way. But the promise these therapies can bring to patients everywhere persists.

We believe the medical world may finally be able to scale the production of individual, breakthrough cell therapies. It could be the difference between treating a handful of patients, or treating hundreds of thousands.

A new ending to the tragic stories we hear too often. A new normal.

bio_Flannery.jpgJohn Flannery is the President and CEO of GE Healthcare, an $18 billion business unit of General Electric that provides transformational medical technologies and solutions to the global healthcare industry. GE Healthcare supports customers in over 100 countries with a broad range of services and systems, from diagnostic imaging and healthcare IT through to molecular diagnostics and life-sciences. John was appointed to his current role in October 2014.


Topics: Cancer, GE Healthcare, John Flannery, Cell Therapy, Digital Industrialization

Part II: Reactions to Supreme Court's Affordable Care Act Decision

Posted by Matthew Smith on Jun 28, 2012 12:52:00 PM

Affordable Care ActAmerican Heart Association:

Because of this ruling, the Affordable Care Act can be fully implemented to help reach the American Heart Association’s 2020 goal to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans and, more immediately, prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years through the Million Hearts initiative. Under the law’s robust provisions, we are expanding access to preventive care and medicines to reduce an individual’s risk factors; placing a stronger emphasis on community prevention and wellness; and providing access to the care patients need to recover after a heart attack or stroke so they can lead longer, more productive lives.

For the 122 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, including the 7.3 million with some form of heart disease or stroke who are uninsured, this decision will likely be met with a great sigh of relief.  No longer will they be denied coverage or charged higher premiums because of their health status.  Beginning in 2014, these Americans will finally be able to attain the lifesaving care they desperately need at a price they can afford.

Medical Association of Georgia:

The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) is disappointed with today’s U.S. Supreme
Court ruling to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), according to MAG President Sandra B. Reed, M.D. She also stresses that the decision is irrelevant as a practical matter unless the systems that the government and other third party payers use to pay physicians are reformed in a full and comprehensive way.

American Public Health Association:

The American Public Health Association heralds the U.S. Supreme Court ruling announced today upholding the Affordable Care Act, a landmark law enacted in 2010 to dramatically improve the health of all Americans and control health care costs.
Today’s historic ruling by the nation’s highest court marks a significant milestone in our national efforts to improve the delivery and financing of health services in the U.S. and to promote health and wellness rather than disease treatment. The Supreme Court’s decision allows for long-overdue changes made possible by the law to move forward without question or further delay. The law will bring relief to millions of Americans

American Cancer Society:

The ruling is a victory for people with cancer and their families nationwide, who for decades have been denied health coverage, charged far more than they can afford for lifesaving care and forced to spend their life savings on necessary treatment, simply because they have a pre-existing condition.

Massachusetts Medical Society:

Physicians in Massachusetts have been strong supporters of our state health reform movement from the beginning. Universal coverage has been better for our patients, and it’s been better for the practice of medicine. When people have insurance, they are more likely to get the care they need, when they need it. They are also more likely to discuss preventive care measures with their doctor … and that may lead to longer and healthier lives.

And when the public’s health is good, society is more productive, the economy is vibrant, and the social fabric of the community is as strong as it can be. That’s why is we are so pleased that the ACA was upheld. Universal coverage is a state-federal partnership – no state can do this on its own.

New York-Presbyterian Hospital

The constitutional question is over. Now, hospitals and medical leaders must continue to address the issues of access, affordability and quality. A lot has been done, but we have more to accomplish. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital has taken many steps to improve medical care for our patients, drive innovation and hold down costs. We are not alone. 

Many hospitals, organizations and medical leaders have been taking similar steps with great results to improve medicine. The medical community is prepared to embrace change using best practices and rigorous scientific research. Everything we do must be focused on improving medical care for our patients.

Minnesota Hospital Association:

The biggest reaction right now is a sense of relief that now we know this piece of the puzzle is in place. But I think everybody understands it's a work in progress, that we have an election coming up...

Our members aren't saying they're going to do anything different tomorrow than they would have done if a different decision had been reached."

Topics: ACA, Affordable Care, SCOTUS, Cancer, Medical Society, Hospital Association, Medical Association

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