By Danielle Potter, PhD
Looking back, 2020 will exist as the year that many people learned about contact tracing, herd immunity, and mRNA. Vaccine clinical trials made front-page headlines, and effective COVID-19 vaccines were developed in record-breaking time. With the promise of vaccine distribution, Americans are focused on recovery. It’s been tough. It’s been difficult. It’s been challenging.
A Milestone to Remember
Like the rest of you, the CancerLinQ team is looking forward to 2021 and the promise of a return to normalcy. 2020 will be a year we here at CancerLinQ look back on with mixed emotion because, in the midst of the pandemic, we achieved a momentous milestone. In 2020, the CancerLinQ database surpassed over four million records from patients—an achievement that creates new opportunities for us to serve oncology clinicians and researchers with learnings from real-world cancer data.
With our mission to improve the quality of oncology care by learning from all patients, the more data we can gather, the more broadly and accurately our database reflects the real-world experiences of people with cancer—and the more such data can be unlocked to advance quality care.
Unlike COVID-19, cancer may not be an “epidemic” in same sense, but it—without a doubt—remains an enormous public health challenge in the U.S. and worldwide, one that touches virtually all of us. However, the lessons learned from the COVID-19 epidemic in 2020 reinforce our mission at CancerLinQ. Defeating an epidemic requires rigorous scientific inquiry into all patients and treatments, along with rapid communication of what works—and what doesn’t—to patients and clinicians. We won’t accomplish ASCO’s vision of “A world where cancer is prevented or cured, and every survivor is healthy” by only studying the 5% to 8% of patients who enroll in cancer clinical trials. CancerLinQ’s achievements in 2020 advance ASCO’s vision by aggregating an impressive amount of real-world cancer data and using it to “Enhance Quality, Advance Discovery,” as the CancerLinQ tagline says.
Impacting Patient Care
For the oncology community, CancerLinQ’s milestone underscores that we have the organizational prowess to achieve and maintain a large flow of data to subscribers and users of our SmartLinQTM quality management applications. Using SmartLinQ, practices can compare their individual results with the aggregated, de-identified data from the entire CancerLinQ network. In this case, more is better because it creates a more accurate representation of the diversity of oncology care across the United States—by location (urban vs. rural) and patient characteristics (race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, educational attainment, etc.) to name a few—all of which can impact a patient’s access to health care services, experiences of care, and cancer outcomes.
The size and diversity of the CancerLinQ database can help all practices—from small, community-based practices to geographically diverse integrated health networks—deliver better care based on more representative comparisons and experiences. The CancerLinQ platform has proven itself to be scalable, flexible, and able to receive data from a wide variety of health care organizations and sources, including almost all of the electronic health record (EHR) systems in use today in oncology practices.
In the world of cancer research, new knowledge to improve care is no longer limited to what can be gathered in traditional clinical trials or observational studies. With CancerLinQ Discovery®, our robust, longitudinal database of aggregated, de-identified data enhanced by technology-enabled manual abstraction, researchers can dive in and study populations of patients with cancer that are not typically available for analysis. It’s a new opportunity for cancer researchers to discover patterns and associations in the data that can ultimately lead to better patient outcomes.
Looking to the Future
While we acknowledge this milestone today, we must focus on the days ahead—continuing to ensure that every person with cancer receives the highest quality care based on the best available evidence. No matter what 2021 brings, we will remain committed to growing the CancerLinQ database to help cancer care centers and clinical practices view, screen, and treat cancer and aid research with the data they need to understand the complete patient story. Just like we expect the COVID-19 vaccine to have a huge impact on the epidemic we’ve been facing, at CancerLinQ, we’re working to ultimately create a world where the burden of cancer and impact on the lives of so many is similarly transformed.
To learn more about CancerLinQ, CancerLinQ Discovery, and our solutions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Potter is an epidemiologist with an interest in the use of real-world datasets for observational research and clinical trials. Prior to joining ASCO, she worked as a public health epidemiologist and in the pharmaceutical industry. Disclosure.