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Big Data Era Arrives in Clinical Practice Via CancerLinQ Project

David Delaney, MD, and Kevin Fitzpatrick
Published: Sunday, Jul 24, 2016
David Delaney, MD

David Delaney, MD
Chief Medical Officer,
Healthcare at SAP

Kevin Fitzpatrick

Kevin Fitzpatrick
CEO, CancerLinQ LLC

We have entered the era of the internet of things as pervasive devices including smartphones, computers, cars, fitness monitors, and monitoring devices in hospitals and factories are all generating massive amounts of electronic, machine-produced data every second.

In fact, more data have been created since 2003 than in all of previous recorded history.1

Researchers, data analysts, and scientists are having to shift from examining typical datasets in traditional fashion to petabytes of data, looking for deeper and complex relationships in the data that can help us gain insights and improve outcomes in many areas including healthcare and diseases such as cancer. In healthcare, the volume of published cancer research has increased dramatically in tandem with an explosion in patient-specific information such as genomic data.

However, while much of these data—such as individual characteristics, treatment regimens, and outcomes—are leveraged for decision making for the individual patient during treatment, our ability to leverage the data of previously treated patients in aggregate to continuously learn from and improve real-world results is severely limited outside of the small minority enrolled in clinical trials.

What if we could change that? Technology solutions powered by rich datasets and high-performance, in-memory computing capabilities have the potential to facilitate cancer care transformation. By building platforms and networks that allow oncologists and researchers to harness and utilize the vast amount of health data globally, physicians can make treatment choices based on real-world outcomes from a broad group of cancer patients, closely matched to the patient at hand.

An integrated platform allows those in the cancer care ecosystem to leverage the collective experience and knowledge of entire organizations, systems, regions, and countries, which can supercharge a physician’s decision-making power. This new approach—with a focus on personalized, data-driven decisions—is remaking healthcare, and more specifically, changing how oncologists treat cancer.

Delivering Evidence-Based Care With CancerLinQ

In-memory computing is revolutionizing how we diagnose, treat, and prevent cancer. One groundbreaking platform is CancerLinQ (www.CancerLinQ.org).

An initiative launched in 2012 by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), CancerLinQ is making unprecedented use of massive amounts of patient data, already analyzing nearly hundreds of thousands of medical records of patients with cancer to uncover patterns and trends and to measure their care against that of their peers and recommended guidelines.

It’s surprising to many patients with cancer and their families, but the data oncologists typically leverage for deciding on chemotherapeutic regimens are based on a tiny subset—only 3%—of the more than 1.7 million people in the United States diagnosed each year with cancer.

This might be acceptable if the enrolled patients represented the general population of patients with cancer. However, real-world patients with cancer tend to be older, sicker, and more ethnically diverse than the typical study patients who tend to be in good health—except for the cancer.

Oftentimes, the available clinical trials would have excluded patients like the one the oncologist is treating, prompting clinicians to extrapolate based on their experience treating similar patients blended with gut feeling and intuition. CancerLinQ allows oncologists to learn from the 97% of patients with cancer not involved in clinical trials and help deliver better, more data-driven decision making based on real-world results of patients closely matched to the patient at hand.

Strength in Numbers

As of June 2016, CancerLinQ has 58 vanguard practices using the platform with the records of 750,000 patients with cancer stored in the system. The growth rate for collecting data in Cancer- LinQ is exceeding expectations.

And more importantly, growth is currently limited by the ability to onboard practices as the demand among practices greatly exceeds the ability to enroll them. Participants range from small private practices to some of the nation’s leading cancer centers. Approximately 200 additional practices are in line today to participate in CancerLinQ.


View Conference Coverage
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TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
34th Annual Miami Breast Cancer Conference® Clinical Case Vignette Series™May 25, 20182.0
Community Practice Connections™: CDK4/6 Inhibitors With the Experts: The Role of Emerging Agents for the Management of Metastatic Breast CancerMay 30, 20182.0
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