Big Data Will Help the “Moonshot” Initiative in Its Mission to Cure Cancer

March 29, 2016
Greg Guthrie, ASCO staff

“Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done.”—President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 12, 2016.

You may remember this remarkable moment from the 2016 State of the Union Address, as President Barack Obama described how the federal government would put substantial support toward an effort to cure cancer. This so-called “moonshot” initiative would be led by Vice President Joe Biden.

One of the ways to help support the “moonshot” is by analyzing big data. “Big data” is a computing term used to describe huge sets of data that can be analyzed to identify trends, find associations, and spot patterns. Big data is effective because there is simply so much information that the analysis can reveal details that would normally go unnoticed in smaller sample sizes.

Writing in the New York Times, Julie Vose, MD, MBA, and President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), says, “The use of ‘big data’ initiatives will allow the data from multiple types of electronic medical records on millions of patients to be aggregated into large data sets that can be rapidly mined. This will allow researchers and clinicians to improve the care of all cancer patients by analyzing the other 97% of patients who don’t go on clinical trials. This information can inform treatment for a specific patient at the point of care in the clinic or form a hypothesis for future clinical trials.”

One such big data initiative is ASCO’s CancerLinQ™, which Vice President Biden has described as being able to “harness big data and personalize care for millions of cancer patients.” CancerLinQ is a health information technology system developed by oncologists and guided by a patient advisory committee. It draws information from electronic health records that your doctor already uses to:

  • More effectively monitor care.

  • Improve your care.

Participating in CancerLinQ can also help improve the care of other people with cancer, even rare forms of cancer.