Eric Lefkofsky strikes deal with CancerLinQ to provide analytic services

Tempus, the database and knowledge discovery firm founded by Eric Lefkofsky, has recently announced that it will be entering into a major deal with CancerLinQ, one of the largest collators of cancer-related data in the world. This is a major step forward in the development of the Tempus platform, which has only been in development since the end of 2016.

CancerLinQ is a non-profit organization that is a subsidiary of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the largest organization of oncologists in the world. The incredible thing about the deal is that it will combine the immense power of Tempus’ analytic capabilities with the vast reams of data collected over the years within the CancerLinQ system.

This marriage of powerful, machine-learning-based analysis with one of the greatest troves of cancer-related data currently in existence will mark the opening of a new frontier in the fight against cancer. Lefkofsky has said that it is only a matter of time until platforms like Tempus, which are able to harness data from sources as disparate as patient records and human genomic sequencing, will be able to give oncologists a granularity of understanding that will make current treatment protocols look as primitive as a horse-drawn carriage.

Lefkofsky has said that one of the biggest problems with the current treatment protocols, most of which are based heavily on the pillars of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, is the raw crudity with which they are applied. Lefkofsky says that the distributions of patient outcomes are currently far too wide for cancer treatment regimens. For example, a given chemotherapeutic treatment regimen may see survival rates ranging from a couple of weeks all the way up to ten years, and this is even after having been controlled for staging and known patient risk factors.

Survival distributions encompassing such a wide spectrum of outcomes tend to be the rule in cancer treatment rather than the exception. This high amount of variance is not indicative of a field that has been thoroughly mastered by medical science. On the contrary, it illustrates a profound lack of understanding on the part of the oncology profession as to what factors are truly important in the goal of maximizing survival rates.

Lefkofsky points out that such wide distributions of patient outcomes are not accepted in other areas of medicine. For example, diseases like tuberculosis were once deadly for a large number of people. Some people died almost immediately after being diagnosed with the disease, whereas others were able to live for decades with it. Today, Tuberculosis is considered almost 100 percent curable in patients with normal immune systems, with the distribution of patient outcomes heavily skewed towards almost universal 10-year survival.

The almost total success of modern tuberculosis treatments are a function of increased understanding that has resulted from more than a century of major advances in the disease’s treatment.

Like the progression of tuberculosis treatment, Lefkofsky believes that the revolution currently taking place in the analysis of cancer and genomic data will eventually lead to cancer becoming a far more survivable disease. He points to various forms of cancer today that have high survival rates, as well as rare individuals who are able to beat even the deadliest forms of cancer. Lefkofsky states that the main reason the distribution of patient outcomes is so wide for many forms of cancer is because oncologists simply don’t understand the underlying factors that may allow one patient to beat a given cancer type with simple chemotherapy while the same disease utterly consumes another patient. Tempus’ partnership with CancerLinQ will go a long ways towards providing the granular understanding of patient characteristics that will someday lead to far more accurate and effective treatments being devised.

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