A day after President Obama’s mention of precision medicine in his State of the Union speech,1 officials at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) announced that CancerLinQTM will go live later this year, ushering in what they described as a transformative era of big data–driven precision cancer care.

Following a successful pilot project, ASCO officials announced that eight community oncology practices around the United States have joined the CancerLinQ network, and that roughly 500,000 electronic patient health records from these practices will be uploaded to the CancerLinQ data system by late this year.

In addition, seven large cancer centers are expected to join the CancerLinQ network by year’s end, according to ASCO President Peter Paul Yu, MD.

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“We expect 15 practices to come in this year,” Dr. Yu said. “We could have more.”

Currently much of the valuable information about clinical oncology treatments, side-effects, and outcomes representing 97% of patients with cancer are held in millions of separate health care, laboratory, and proprietary insurance records where they are unavailable for analysis.

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When CancerLinQ is fully implemented, however, oncologists “will be able to gain insights in seconds” instead of months or years, Dr. Yu said.

Instead of relying only on the highly selected patient populations represented in clinical trials to inform their clinical decisions, clinicians will be able to use CancerLinQ to draw upon data from millions of patients’ records about treatments and outcomes for very specific patient populations, such as patients with particular genetic polymorphisms or treatment histories.

That will allow “rapid learning from big data,” Dr. Yu said, providing oncologists with access to data that highlights “what imaging tests to do or not to do when new technology comes along [and] what’s the best way to use new technology and how can we learn about that more rapidly,” he continued.

ASCO has partnered with SAP, a global big data software developer, to implement CancerLinQ using the company’s HANA data platform. HANA is a relational, scalable streaming-data database that allows real-time analysis, company officials said.

According to Dr. Yu, CancerLinQ will benefit clinical oncology practices and patients with cancer 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.”