SAP and CancerLinQ Accelerate Precision Oncology for Cancer Care

June 4, 11:10 AM

By using SAP HANA and analyzing over 1 million cancer patient records, CancerLinQ gives oncologists real-world treatment insights that can improve patient outcomes.

Just over three years ago, SAP and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) joined forces to develop a rapid learning health platform that had an ambitious mission: Empower the oncology community to improve quality of care and patient outcomes through transformational data analytics. This digital transformation initiative offered healthcare providers a means to overcome one of the largest challenges in cancer care: gain access to real-world cancer data. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 1.7 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. However, only three percent of cancer patients participate in clinical trials, meaning 97 percent of cancer patient data is locked away in unconnected files and servers.

ASCO and SAP realized that the key to empowering the oncology community — and improving cancer care — was to unlock data silos at treatment centers all over the country, allowing for accessible data pools that could be analyzed and shared by the larger cancer care community. That vision became a reality with CancerLinQ®, a data-gathering platform that continues to gain traction with a growing amount of real-world cancer information.

The “LinQ” in CancerLinQ stands for Learning Intelligence Network for Quality, and to date, it accurately represents its name. Currently a U.S.-based initiative, CancerLinQ helps participating cancer providers improve the quality of care by analyzing multiple, complex data sources extracted from patient medical records. The platform allows physicians to uncover patterns and trends and measure their care against that of their peers and recommended guidelines.

Over a Million Records and Counting

Developed and operated by CancerLinQ LLC, a wholly-owned nonprofit subsidiary of ASCO, the platform is built on the SAP Connected Health platform. The system uses SAP Medical Research Insights solution and runs on SAP HANA, which provides real-time, in-memory data processing and analytics. CancerLinQ now contains over a million patient records, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive data sets of its kind.

To date, practices in 40 states, representing more than 2,000 oncologists, are participating in CancerLinQ. The practices are in various stages of progress, ranging from signing up for CancerLinQ participation to beginning the data records integration into the platform to actually using the system for quality improvement activities and gaining insights into the data.

As the number of CancerLinQ participants have grown, so has the amount of collective knowledge related to cancer types and patient demographics. In addition to the SAP collaboration, CancerLinQ has established collaborations with government, non-profit, and other industry partners to generate new insights, improve patient care, and ensure the long-term sustainability of the CancerLinQ platform.

“The CancerLinQ initiative has been a remarkable collaboration with SAP” says Richard L. Schilsky, MD, FACP, FASCO, FSCT, interim CEO of CancerLinQ. “We needed a technology partner that could move massive amounts of data in a secure fashion around the world. SAP demonstrated it had the ability to do this at scale. The SAP HANA platform gives CancerLinQ the ability to manage large volumes of patient data very quickly and efficiently.”

Analyzing Complex Data Sources

Even though it is relatively young, CancerLinQ is moving the meter toward adoption of precision oncology. This approach is beneficial for everyone in the cancer care ecosystem, including oncology professionals, and—most importantly—the patient. The goal of precision oncology is very straightforward: the focus is on giving the right drug to the right patient at the right time. To move in that direction, the cancer care community is using the CancerLinQ platform to share data, both structured and unstructured, on a broad scale.

From the beginning, CancerLinQ identified four core use cases for the platform. SAP provided the tools and functionality to facilitate these functions:

  • Measure and benchmark the quality of cancer care
  • Unlock, assemble, and analyze de-identified cancer patient medical records
  • Provide guidance by identifying the best, evidence-based course of care, allowing physicians using CancerLinQ to look for and identify an adverse set of events in cancer patients, such as a particular drug usage or pairing that had an unexpected outcome
  • Uncover patterns to generate knowledge

Data Aggregation and Processing

The CancerLinQ platform operates like this: Data from each practice is put into CancerLinQ via a daily feed that originates from source systems. Practice team members are not required to input data manually. CancerLinQ system integration capabilities encompass the major EMR systems, including Allscripts, CureMD, Epic (Clarity), GE Centricity, MOSAIQ, NextGen, OncoEMR, and Aria/Varian.

CancerLinQ ingests and processes the identifiable data at the individual patient level. The platform uses statistical methodologies to de-identify data included in aggregate data sets. Data analytics tools, parameterized reports, and quality performance indicators (QPIs) are made available to the practice and accessible via a standard Web browser on a secure Web connection.

Visualization of Treatment Data

One key — and popular — feature among users of the platform is the visualized timeline, or patient summary. It provides a longitudinal view of oncologic milestones in a patient’s clinical event history, eventually allowing physicians to see all the events in a patient’s treatment path: diagnostics, surgery, systemic therapy, and complications.

CancerLinq Patient Timeline

Combining Structured and Unstructured Data

SAP and ASCO knew from the beginning that developing a holistic picture of a patient and the type of cancer involves collecting not only tumor, genomic, and biological data, but also physician’s notes. By collecting structured and unstructured data in CancerLinQ, caregivers can better understand care variances. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of data used to treat cancer is unstructured. CancerLinQ collects a broad range of clinical data, including patient demographics, provider characteristics, encounters, diagnosis, pathology, laboratory tests, medications, radiology, radiation treatments, surgical treatments, post-therapy care, and notes and documents.

The New Generation of Precision Medicine

While the cancer care community has many powerful approaches to defeat cancer, systems such as CancerLinQ represent a leap forward in managing cancer. As oncologists can tap into more relevant data sources and add them to the collective pool of knowledge, everyone benefits. This shared knowledge set will allow treatment centers to transition to personalized cancer treatments, based on real-world patient data.

Computing platforms such as CancerLinQ that can manage and integrate massive amounts of data in real-time will further help oncologists deliver the right treatment to the right patient at exactly the right time.

Learn more about CancerLinQ at and SAP at