Roche's Genentech targets cancer cells via video game with Tumor Quest

The latest innovation from Roche’s Genentech targets cancer cells—in a video game. Called “Tumor Quest,” the game is aimed at engaging people in an out-of-the-ordinary way to talk about tumor types and biomarker testing.

The game begins with a short intro video about genomic profiling and testing, with players then able to choose from three different paths—nonspecific, tumor-specific or tumor-agnostic—to try to eliminate cancer cells. Tumor Quest uses “Bejeweled” type matching play, where players line up three or more mutations associated with different tumor types that then disappear. For instance, in tumor-agnostic, a player earns points for matching a colon, lung and pancreas based on the same mutation.

Genentech launched the game on its website around ASCO earlier this month knowing that many of its priority audiences would be attending. Genentech promoted it on Twitter (@genentech), shared it on Facebook and LinkedIn and sent it to key influencers in the community.

“While (personalized medicine) is obviously an extremely complex topic, we’ve peeled it back to its most basic concepts to hopefully make it easy to understand how we can tailor treatments based on the unique biology of an individual’s cancer. And we’ve used a gaming platform that will feel familiar and intuitive to most players,” Josh Baldwin, Genentech's director of digital strategy and channels, corporate relations, said in an email interview.

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For Genentech, the video game is the latest in trying to engage people with content that goes beyond traditional editorial and video, which have already included animations, comic strips, podcasts and other video games.

The goal is to boost low public awareness around biological markers and individualized treatment options, said Meghan Cox, Genentech senior manager in corporate relations.

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“We’re learning more and more from every person’s experience with cancer. Now, advances in science and technology are helping us reveal what’s driving cancer and how to target it. This game helps to underscore the importance of combining advanced diagnostics that can identify these drivers and medicines that can target them to find the right treatment for each person diagnosed with cancer,” she said.

Roche, which recently picked up a first approval in Japan for targeted cancer med Rozlytrek, has also partnered with Merck & Co. to develop pan-cancer diagnostic testing to detect the mismatch repair deficiency biomarker (dMMR) in solid tumors regardless of their location. Roche has also launched a new automated in vitro diagnostic to detect tropomyosin receptor kinase (TRK) proteins in cancer, which the company hopes will have potential use in a range of solid tumor types and site-agnostic targeted therapies.