CancerLinQ Moves to Its Patient Data-Gathering Clinical Phase

Rosemary Frei, MSc

May 2015, Vol 6, No 4 - Oncology


The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and a German company called SAP are launching the clinical phase of ASCO’s big-data initiative—CancerLinQ. This clinical phase is focused on gathering and analyzing data from the 97% of US patients with cancer who do not participate in clinical trials.

In a recent conference, representatives from ASCO and SAP, as well as a community oncologist discussed the putative potential of CancerLinQ to improve cancer care, from the implementation of personalized medicine to helping payers set care quality and efficiency benchmarks.

Patients “will be reassured that no matter where they are receiving care, they’re getting the highest possible quality, evidence-based care,” said Clifford A. Hudis, MD, ASCO Immediate Past President, and Chief, Breast Medicine Service, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, NY. “And the physicians will be…reassured that they’re provided personalized guidance on their treatment decisions, by matching what they are planning for their patients against national quality standards,” he added.

“And finally, for the private and public payers and other healthcare organizations, this will bring them metrics and tools that will allow them to support the further development of high-quality and ever-more-­efficient care,” Dr Hudis said.

Southcoast Centers for Cancer Care, New Bedford, MA, is among the first oncology practices across the United States to adopt CancerLinQ, representing a total of approximately 500,000 patients. Another 7 large cancer centers have lined up to sign up next, according to ASCO President Peter Paul Yu, MD, Director of Cancer Research, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, CA.

“We’ll be able to query the database regarding toxicity and tolerance of various chemotherapeutic regimens from the database of thousands of like patients. We’ll have access to real-time data as to our processes and our outcomes, to improve the care we deliver to patients,” said Therese M. Mulvey, MD, PhD, Physician-in-Chief, Southcoast Centers for Cancer Care.

“We’ll also be able to use molecular markers in diseases where clinical trials may be lacking. Many patients have molecular markers performed on their tumors, and this data is locked away and unavailable for comparison,” Dr Mulvey said. Participating in CancerLinQ, she said, will help us “to improve personalized medicine for patients.”

Value-Based Cancer Care talked with Anne-Marie Meyer, PhD, Faculty Director, Integrated Cancer Information and Surveillance System (ICISS) program, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Chapel Hill, about the challenges of collecting big data in oncology. Dr Meyer was involved in developing North Carolina’s 5.5-million-­patient ICISS program. One of the challenges is the different working styles and needs of the many groups involved in such undertakings, said Dr Meyer, including clinicians, computer scientists/engineers, and­ population scientists.

“It’s like sitting down a person from Italy with a person from Switzerland—they speak different languages and they use different tools,” she said. But that has to be overcome and “you’ve got to build these intense and close interdisciplinary partnerships,” said Dr Meyer. “It’s a herculean task, because the data going into these systems are as complex as the people they represent.”

She said it is similar to living in a building that is under construction.

“If the construction is planned well and the materials are ready, timelines met, expectations clearly communicated, etcetera, life goes on comfortably and efficiently. But if it is not planned well, it can be expensive and painful.”