A patient-centered and equitable approach to transforming cancer care and research
By Sean Khozin, MD, MPH
Health technology is the backbone of change that is driving new ways of patient care and clinical research. Developing meaningful health technology today to improve quality of care and narrow the gap between care delivery and clinical research requires a multidisciplinary approach involving expertise in software engineering, data science, and medical research to transform fragmented legacy systems and workflows.
The technological innovations we undertake in healthcare should be aligned to the needs of physicians, nurses, and patients; enabling providers to optimize treatment decisions and empowering patients as active participants in their care delivery and clinical research. The patient experience goes beyond the walls of hospitals and physicians’ offices. In the digital age, we can extend the reach of care and clinical research to local communities and patients’ homes using new tools and technologies. The more longitudinal and granular picture we have of the real-world patient experience, the more nuanced we can be making personalized treatment decisions. That’s why I joined the team at CancerLinQ, a forward-thinking organization with patients and providers at the center of its mission, as its Chief Executive Officer.
Using Evidence-Based Care to Improve Patient Outcomes
From leading multidisciplinary teams at Johnson & Johnson supporting the development of innovative medicines; to launching the FDA’s first technology and data science incubator (INFORMED) while heading bioinformatics, regulatory science, and clinical trial innovation efforts at their Oncology Center of Excellence; I’ve always viewed technology and data science as essential ingredients for optimizing clinical research, therapeutic development, and care delivery. There are a lot of things we do in medicine that, without a proper historical view, may appear to be fixed and irrefutable gold standards. Examples include diagnostic terminologies and the belief that clinical research and care delivery are distinct entities. In reality, methods and nomenclature for disease characterization are constantly evolving and the clinical data for establishing the safety and efficacy of new cancer therapies are nearly identical to the clinical data required to power evidence-based treatment decisions at the point-of-care. Most of the perceived differences are persistent artifacts of tradition rather than objective realities.
As an oncologist, I deeply respect ASCO as a group of pragmatic innovators committed to advancing quality of cancer care and research. CancerLinQ embodies the same ethos, using technology to improve the lives of patients with cancer. We understand the challenges oncologists, cancer researchers, and patients face. With an estimated three to five percent of adult oncology patients in the United States participating in clinical trials (most younger with better performance status and from more privileged backgrounds), the results of many studies can lack external validity. The body of evidence derived from traditional clinical trials, therefore, provides an incomplete and skewed view of patient outcomes. CancerLinQ fills this gap in clinical evidence by generating insights from real-world data that reflect the true diversity of patients with cancer. Without high-quality real-world data, delivering evidence-based cancer care at scale is simply not possible given that traditional clinical trials are exclusionary and often lack external validity. Minimizing guesswork in developing treatment guidelines requires insights from the point-of-care; because that’s where the majority of patients are under active monitoring and treatment.
The Plan Ahead
Moving forward, CancerLinQ will continue to focus on the voices of oncologists and their patients—developing and deploying innovative technology solutions to help solve their challenges while expanding our reach to generate deeper insights with multimodal data assets that include genomics, digital histopathology, and medical imaging. We are also planning to leverage our growing presence at point-of-care to extend the reach of clinical investigations to underserved communities. More than just building and deploying advanced technologies, our efforts are about helping democratize access to cancer clinical trials as CancerLinQ continues to work with stakeholders at the local level; building trusted relationships with a growing community of oncology practices, health systems, and the patients we proudly serve.