Big data has already transformed government and industry, granting never before seen insight into how the world works. Now doctors and the medical world are beginning to apply this new insight into cancer treatment. The American Society of Clinical Oncologists now has a working prototype for a "learning health system" called CancerLinQ. This system collects and analyzes cancer care data from the millions of patients that are treated for cancer each year from around the country.
Currently there is no universal access point for cancer research. Doctors only have access to clinical trial data, which only represetns 3% of the 1.6 million patients diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S. Due to the restricted access there is very little known about the majority of people who receive cancer treatment. The files are locked away in disjointed servers or paper files stuffed away in file cabinets. The goal of CancerLinQ is to make this data accessible to doctors in order to better guide treatment and therapy.
Making this information readily available however may be easier said than done. There is a lot of red tape surrounding healthcare data, but ASCO says that the CancerLinQ project is undergoing "extensive technology and legal analysis."
The project is currently in early days and is starting small, with data from 100,000 breast cancer patients. Doctors are hoping that they can expand this group to encompass nearly all patients in the country. A group of special interest are the patients that have pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, excluding them from clinical trials. These patients are the ones that doctors see every day and are in need of the most research.
Written By: Sam Watkinson