The number of US cancer survivors is on a rapid incline, and a large proportion of those diagnosed with incident cancer have survived a prior cancer, according to a recent study in JAMA. However, cancer survivors are mostly excluded from cancer clinical trials and observational research. As such, they are underrepresented and not much is known about both their treatment as well as survivorship needs. This minimizes the understanding of the nature as well as impact of the prior cancer, which is critical to improving clinical trial accrual and generalizability, disease outcomes and patient experience.
This exclusion of cancer survivors from medical and clinical trial records is a problem as it represents a vast limitation in the way cancer data could be used to help patients with a current cancer diagnosis. In an effort to improve the lack of data generally as well as data infrastructure issues, Eric Lefkofsky, a Chicago-based entrepreneur, founded Tempus, a startup that takes advantage of the recent human genome sequencing, science and technology advances to support cancer care. When asked about Tempus, Lefkofsky states that the company’s goal is to improve the way decisions are made. “In oncology, and across healthcare more broadly, datasets have historically been small and disorganized.” “Thankfully, technology has opened the door to new possibilities and for the first time in history, it is possible to amass massive amounts of molecular and clinical data and put it to work for the benefits of patients” he adds.
According to the study, the population of newly diagnosed patients who also have a history of prior cancer include one-quarter of all older adults (≥65 years) and more than 10% of younger adults. The prevalence range of prior cancer was 3.5% to 36.9%. Furthermore, the study suggests that as many as 25% of those newly diagnosed with lung cancer may be excluded from participating in clinical trials. Although significant advances have been made in understanding the risks of re-developing a cancer, the number of patients who are diagnosed with cancer following a prior cancer survival remains unknown.
The exclusion of those with a prior cancer is likely due to a long-held belief that a prior cancer diagnosis may skew research conduct as well as outcomes, the study states. However, knowledge of the prevalence of prior cancer episodes among those with different types of incident cancer could be vital for both treatment as well as research. This very discrepancy between collected patient data and its subsequent use is a hurdle in the development of effective customized treatment paradigms. In hopes to bridge the gap between the two, Lefkofsky launchedTempus, which marries and analyzes patients molecular and clinical information. When asked about Tempus, Lefkofsky states that the company’s goal is to improve the way decisions are made. “We simply focus on how can we bring technology to the hands of physicians and make their days easier.”
Cancer is fundamentally an uncontrollable cell growth that results in an accumulation of abnormal cells, also called a tumor. Cancer is a collection of several types of conditions, and as such it is umbrella term for over 100 different cancer types, each of which characterized uniquely depending on factors such as tumor location, patient gender and age and severity, to name a few. Depending on its location as well as the speed of growth, or metastasis, cancer can either be severely debilitating or deadly. To a certain extent, each type of cancer is difficult to impossible to treat. This is because the body’s very own mechanisms have failed, and thus the body is not equipped with a system to prevent dysfunctional cells from rapidly growing and propagating. This makes cancer one of the most difficult diseases to treat and thereby one of the most widespread. Furthermore, malfunctions in cellular processes that ultimately lead to cancer are fundamentally due to malfunctions in genes that regulate them, thereby making cancer an inherently genetic disease.
Tempus is a health tech company that is building the world’s largest library of molecular and clinical data as well as an operating system to make that data accessible and useful in the battle against cancer. Founded in 2015, the company’s headcount is about 200, heavy on PhDs and data scientists, with a top genetics research at the University of Chicago as Tempus’ president. The company offers an interactive and analytical machine learning platform through which it enables physicians to deliver personalized cancer care for patients. It achieves that by transforming unstructured data into an organized database of every patient’s information, by producing molecular data by analyzing cancer patients’ DNA and RNA as means to uncover more personalized treatment options and by generating actionable insights for more impactful outcomes. The company’s goal is for each patient to benefit from the treatment of others who came before by providing physicians with tools that learn as Tempus gathers more data. Tempus is also collaborating with the Mayo Clinic, the University of Michigan, the Cleveland Clinic, Duke University School of Medicine, the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and Knight Cancer Institute at the OHSU. For more information, visit tempus.com, “Tempus Labs” on Facebook and @TempusLabs on Twitter. For more information on Eric Lefkofsky, visit lefkofsky.com.
About Eric Lefkofsky
In addition to Tempus, Lefkofsky is also the founding partner of Lightbank, a venture fund that focuses its investments on disruptive technologies. He was also co-founder and Chairman of the global e-commerce marketplace Groupon. Furthermore, he is co-founder of Uptake Technologies, an analytics platform for the world’s largest industries, Mediaocean, which provides integrated media procurement technologies, Echo Global Logistics, a technology-enabled transportation and logistics outsourcing firm and InnerWorkings, whose focus is on providing managed print and promotional solutions globally.
Lefkofsky is an avid philanthropist, having established the Lefkofsky Family Foundation together with his wife in 2006. The Foundation’s primary aim is to advance high-impact initiatives in education, fundamental human rights, medicine, art and culture that enhance lives in the communities that are served. As of 2013, both are also members of The Giving Pledge, having committed to contribute nearly half their wealth to philanthropic causes. Lefkofsky is also on the board of trustees of the Lurie’s Children’s Hospital of Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry and World Business Chicago. He also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company that is based in Chicago.