CancerLinQ to Harness Big Data, Provide Better Care for Cancer Patients

The first iteration of the American Society of Clinical Oncology's (ASCO's) endeavor to capture and harness big data, CancerLinQ, is scheduled for release in late 2015.

Peter P. Yu, MD

The first iteration of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO’s) endeavor to capture and harness big data, CancerLinQ, is scheduled for release in late 2015. Eight community oncology practices have signed on to use CancerLinQ, and ASCO expects seven large cancer centers to join the effort shortly. Once the initial rollout is complete, the electronic health records of 500,000 patients who will be represented in CancerLinQ, according to a presscast today.

These initial practices include Inova Comprehensive Cancer & Research Institute (Virginia); South Coast Centers for Cancer Care (Massachusetts); New England Cancer Specialists (Maine); Medical Oncology Hematology Consultants (Delaware); Cancer Treatment Centers of America (Pennsylvania); Marin Cancer Care (California); Space Coast Cancer Center (Florida); and Michiana Hematology-Oncology (Indiana).

Using the data found in millions of electronic health records that are stored in cancer centers, insurers, and the offices of community oncologists and hematologists is a daunting task, but to reach that goal ASCO announced that the CancerLinQ platform will use the relational database management system offered by SAP, a global software developer. The CancerLinQ platform will be powered by SAP’s big data technology called HANA.

“CancerLinQ will benefit oncologists in three ways: it will provide real-time quality feedback to oncologists, allowing them to compare the actual care they provide against guidelines. It will uncover patterns that can improve care, revealing new, previously unseen patterns in patient characteristics, treatments, and outcomes. And it will provide personalized insights to doctors, offering individualized and unbiased decision support for every patient and every type of cancer,” said Peter Paul Yu, MD, ASCO president during the presscast.

“When CancerLinQ is complete, doctors will gain insights in seconds, not years, and patients will have access to high quality care based on the most up to date findings,” said Yu.

By using CancerLinQ, these practices will be able to aggregate and analyze a wide range of data and provide reports for quality improvement. Insights gathered from the data are expected to help lay the groundwork for developing the full system, in which oncology practices across the US can participate.

“CancerLinQ is intended to improve care everywhere,” said Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP, during the presscast. Hudis is ASCO’s immediate past president. “It is designed to support all physicians, in all settings, so its impact will not be limited to specific providers, or narrow insurance networks, or regions of the country.”

CancerLinQ will translate the data collected from highly selective patients who have participated in clinical trials and help practicing oncologists apply that data to the patients they see every day.

“We’ll have access to real-time data as far as processes and outcomes to improve the care that we deliver to our patients. We expect to be able to track acute and long-term toxicities of chemotherapy agents. What happens to patients after they complete their therapy will be of great interest,” said Therese M. Mulvey, MD, a medical oncologist from South Coast Cancer Centers for Cancer Care.

The HANA software can manipulate the data that are collected in a number of ways. All data are stored in main memory, which enhances the speed to analyze the data and can provide the real-time insight that a busy oncologist needs when he or she is seeing a patient. In addition, HANA can collect and adjust data that are collected from multiple sources (ie, different community oncology practices).

Over time, further development and input will come from physicians, patients and experts in relevant disciplines that include quality improvement, health outcomes, epidemiology and health IT. ASCO will continue to maintain control over the data, services, and products including decision support tools and analyses. SAP will provide engineering and technical support to continue to enrich CancerLinQ’s versatility.

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