Building a Transformation in Cancer Care

Cancer science and information technology are advancing rapidly, but the way we care for patients today cannot fully capitalize on those advances.

The proliferation of scientific results and novel treatments is a growing challenge for all oncology professionals as we enter the era of highly personalized cancer care. Patients are increasingly presenting with “rare cancers,” more narrowly defined by their molecular characteristics, sometimes making the best course of treatment unclear. Today more than ever, oncologists need real-time decision support to help them provide the most effective treatments tailored to their patients’ unique biology and tumors.

Developing the Full System

ASCO has initiated development of the full CancerLinQ™ system, a groundbreaking health information technology (HIT) initiative to achieve higher quality, higher value cancer care with better outcomes for patients.

The multi-phase development process will encompass a series of successively more powerful quality improvement tools for physicians, with the first components becoming available by early 2015. ASCO’s move into the full build follows the successful completion of the CancerLinQ™ prototype, which demonstrated the feasibility of a HIT-based learning health system.

The first components of CancerLinQ™ will center on providing next generation quality measurement that builds on ASCO’s Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®). Future components will encompass more powerful quality improvement tools, real-time clinical decision support, and analysis of thousands of patient experiences to create a continuous cycle of learning. ASCO is currently defining the functional requirements for the full system and will be issuing a request for proposal (RFP) in early 2014. 

Amy P. Abernethy, MD, PhD, FACP, has agreed to chair a new CancerLinQ™ Advisory Committee within the Institute for Quality, an ASCO affiliate dedicated to innovative quality improvement programs, which will guide this multi-phase effort. The advisory committee consists of leaders in a wide range of relevant fields, including oncology, health outcomes, epidemiology and HIT. The committee will advise on the design and implementation of the full system throughout its development.

The Institute will also be establishing additional, sector-specific subcommittees of external advisors to provide more perspectives as CancerLinQ™ is developed and implemented. Future groups will include patient and physician advisory subcommittees, as well as a technology advisory subcommittee.

The ASCO Institute for Quality has issued an RFP to seek out a potential vendor to assist with the development of the full CancerLinQ system. To learn more visit,

Interested in receiving updates about CancerLinQ? Fill out ASCO's contact form today.

The CancerLinQ Prototype

The CancerLinQ™ prototype was completed in just eight months and included more than 170,000 de-identified medical records of breast cancer patients provided by oncology practices around the United States. It demonstrated the feasibility of all major components of a learning health system and provided lessons that will guide ASCO’s development of the full system. The following are highlights of the development and unveiling of the prototype.

Transforming Cancer Care through Real-time Learning

That’s why ASCO is embarking on CancerLinQ, a multi-phase initiative that promises to change the way cancer is understood and treated. This “rapid learning system” will harness technological advances to connect oncology practices, measure quality and performance, and provide physicians with decision support in real time.

ASCO’s vision for CancerLinQ is to assemble and analyze all of that information in a learning computer network. Specifically, the system will:

  • Improve the quality of cancer care
  • Provide real-time quality assessment and reporting based on established guidelines
  • Unlock and analyze cancer data from multiple clinical sources (e.g., any EMR, pharmacy, imaging data)
  • Deliver personalized clinical decision support to physicians that is tailored to each patient
  • Allow data mining and data visualization

A rapid learning system, described by the Institute of Medicine in a 2010 report, is designed to draw insight from the vast, untapped pool of data on “real world” patients. Today, we know very little about most patients with cancer – from the molecular characteristics of their tumors to the outcomes of their treatments – because these details are locked away in unconnected electronic and paper records.

In practice, once the full technology platform is completed, CancerLinQ will place a new universe of practical insights at the fingertips of:

  • Doctors: Access up-to-the-minute, individualized decision support based on published reports and real world experience
  • Patients: Access to personalized treatment information from their medical team
  • Researchers: Access to information from a massive body of de-identified data on patient care and results to conduct secondary analytics 

An Evolution of ASCO’s Quality Improvement Programs

CancerLinQ represents the next major step in ASCO’s efforts to improve the quality of cancer care in the U.S. It builds on ASCO’s unparalleled expertise in oncology quality programs, which is being brought together with CancerLinQ in a new ASCO Institute for Quality established in 2011.

ASCO issued its first clinical practice guideline in 1994. In 2006, ASCO launched QOPI, the first national program to help oncology practices measure and improve the quality of care. QOPI’s rigorous set of more than 160 quality measures allows oncologists to monitor and hold each other accountable to advance their quality of care together. A third of oncology practices in the U.S., nearly 900, are registered in the program.