By Kevin Fitzpatrick
CEO, CancerLinQ LLC
We’re closer than ever to seeing the impact of big data in cancer care. National programs like the Cancer Moonshot, Genomic Data Commons, and Precision Medicine Initiative focused attention on the key role that massive datasets will play in advancing oncology science and clinical care.
Here at ASCO we are doing our part. Our big data initiative, CancerLinQ, has just reached a key milestone: more than 100 oncology practices in 40 states and the District of Columbia have now signed up to participate in the program. They account for more than 2,000 medical oncologists who have contributed over 750,000 records on patients with a cancer diagnosis.
These practices reflect the diversity of the oncology community, and of patients with cancer themselves. They range from small but enterprising community practices like Michiana Hematology-Oncology in Mishawaka, Indiana, to academic medical centers, including Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
As proud as I am of CancerLinQ’s growth, what really matters are the implications for physicians, researchers, and people with cancer.
As with any big data project in health care, CancerLinQ’s success hinges on physician and patient participation. We need good data, and lots of it, if we’re to draw meaningful conclusions that can improve patient care. The greater the volume and fidelity of the clinical data, the more reliable and instructive they will be.
The size and diversity of the dataset we are building can help solve a core problem in oncology: the medical evidence is derived often from clinical trials but only a small percentage of patients participate in those trials, and those trial participants often don’t reflect the full spectrum of a real-world patient population. With CancerLinQ, we’ll be able to learn from every individual patient seen in participating practices.
We’re still in early stages, but the benefits of this breadth of data are starting to emerge. In November, we launched CancerLinQ Discovery, a data analytic resource available to the entire cancer community. It allows users to conduct research and analyses on curated sets of aggregated, de-identified data from our participating practices. We’re hard at work producing curated datasets on non-small cell lung cancer and, in partnership with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, cancer immunotherapy. As the number of participating cancer care centers rapidly increases, so too does the value of the data.
We’re humbled by the tremendous support that the cancer care community has demonstrated for CancerLinQ. We hope many more practices will join CancerLinQ and ASCO in our journey toward better care. And, as always, we invite your ideas and your partnership.