Health IT

Oncology data analytics firm targets 96% of cancer patients not in clinical trials

110324_042One of the biggest frustrations cancer doctors have is feeling like they’re the only ones treating cancer, according to Nathaniel Turner, co-founder of cancer data analytics startup Flatiron Health. He and co-founder Zachary Weinberg are about to start the second of a two year pilot program to create a virtual tumor board of sorts by giving physicians access to more meaningful data from a larger patient population.

The long-term goal is to give them a better sense of the best treatment options for their cancer patients depending on the type of cancer they have.

Earlier this year the company got a big financing boost when Google Ventures, led an $8 million Series A round.

Turner points out that only roughly 4 percent of cancer patients are in clinical trials. Its solution is designed to retrieve data from the remaining 96 percent and improve clinical trial participation.


Data analytics in the context of cancer would seem a strangely specific place for a couple of advertising technology professionals to enter, albeit successful advertising professionals who sold their business Invite Media to Google in 2010.  Turner and Weinberg are intimately familiar with the challenges cancer patients face from friends and family and are strongly motivated to use technology to knock down silos and improve data transparency for oncology professionals. Turner points out that advertising technology is practically stratospheric next to healthcare IT and believe they can advance the quality of technology.

In its first year the pilot has shifted from being a regional effort to one spread across 10 hospitals and cancer centers in six states. It has focused on four common cancers among them are breast cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer. Turner says it functions like a co-op. Pilot providers submit de-identified patient records through its cloud-based platform.

The data used in the pilot include cancer type, the diagnosis, treatment that was delivered such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery, and the outcomes.

Flatiron’s data platform includes automatic tracking against clinical, operational and financial metrics, monitoring of adherence to national standards and custom guidelines and flexible query and visualization tools to identify trends and patterns in each provider’s cancer patient population, according to the website. Institutions can see data for their own patients that they are treating but data from other institutions is de-identified.

The company is not disclosing a business model just yet and although payers and ACOs are keen to participate, it is currently focusing on providers and physicians.

The second year of the pilot program starts in June and will see more providers added along with rarer forms of cancer such as ovarian cancer, lymphomas, neuroendocrine tumors as well as more liquid cancer types such as leukemia — a move that becomes practical with an expanded patient population.

So far, Turner says the pilot has generated some compelling feedback from physicians. At least one sees the benefit of of the platform to not only reduce cancer physicians’ isolation but also the isolation felt by cancer patients. It is looking at giving patients access to a social network where they could connect with each other, offer some support and better understand how their condition is progressing compared with others and the options they face.

[Featured Photo Credit: Big Stock Photo Healthcare Network]

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