Big Data’s Importance on Decision Making for Cancer Treatment Detailed by Cancer Experts

Big data plays a critical role in improving clinical decision making for patients with cancer, says cancer experts.

Cancer experts have reported how a Varian Medical Systems supported project in the area of distributed learning is helping to harness the power of big data to benefit patients. Speakers at a Varian-hosted symposium at the European Society for Therapeutic Radiation Oncology (ESTRO) forum in Barcelona highlighted the importance of gaining knowledge from each treatment and using that knowledge to benefit the next patient.

Currently, only roughly three percent of all cancer patients are enrolled in clinical trials. While this is a very small percent, experts say that big data offers the opportunity to potentially pool and analyze all treatment information, helping to better understand cancer and personalize care for each patient. Additionally, by identifying outcomes versus cost of treatment, big data can also help to determine the best value treatments.

“The idea behind using ‘big data’ is to make sure we learn new knowledge from every patient we have ever treated and apply that knowledge for the next patient,” said Andre Dekker, PhD, from the MAASTRO Clinic in Maastricht, Netherlands. “The problem is that there is an overload of data to process which is beyond human capabilities to analyze. Working with Varian’s expertise in knowledge-based learning systems, our team is building a distributed learning system to overcome current barriers to sharing.”

Dekker provided examples of such learning systems in practice, including collaboration where a treatment model learned in the Netherlands is improving treatments in Australian hospitals. He said that in the Netherlands they are gaining extremely valuable knowledge that changes the way radiotherapy patients are treated in Australia.

“In radiation oncology we have the opportunity to learn both through clinical trials and through data mining,” said Professor Vincenzo Valentini, MD, from the Gemelli Advanced Radiation Therapy (ART) in Rome, Italy, when explaining the importance of learning from clinical data. “We have our daily practice stored on computer systems and this enables us to learn rapidly and implement greater knowledge in all our systems.”

Varian Medical Systems, the world’s leading manufacturer of medical devices and software for treating cancer and other medical conditions with radiotherapy, radiosurgery, proton therapy and brachytherapy, focuses on saving lives by providing advanced technology for fighting cancer and for X-ray imaging.

Tim Fox, formerly head of radiotherapy physics at Emory University School of Medicine Atlanta and now working at Varian Medical Systems, presented on knowledge gained from image data using the Velocity system. The system can create a map of all imaging and treatment information, integrating it into a comprehensive and powerful dashboard to assist clinical teams in making more confident decisions. “This allows historically unconnected data from different systems, in different points of time, and in different positions to be transformed into clinical knowledge,” said Dr. Fox. “Combining this powerful data with seamless integration into a department’s IT infrastructure can help optimize productivity and efficiency.”

Source: Varian Medical Systems, Inc.

Last updated: 4/27/15; 1:55pm EST

 

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