Analytics: Fighting cancer for more than 40 years

By Alison Bolen, SAS Insights Editor

Most of us can name at least one friend or relative who is a cancer survivor. And there are hundreds of thousands of people like our loved ones who’ve beaten cancer today but would not have survived it 40 years ago.

In fact, adults diagnosed with cancer in 1975 had a 50-50 chance of surviving after just five years. Today, the five-year relative survival rate across all types of cancers is closer to 70 percent. In that same time frame, the five-year survival rate for childhood cancer patients has improved from 62 percent to 81 percent.1

And these staggering advances would not have happened without analytics:

  • Analytics has helped scientists better understand the lifestyle factors that contribute to the incidence of cancer.
  • Analytics has helped doctors diagnose cancer earlier so that patients can be treated sooner.
  • Analytics has helped scientists discover treatment options for all types of cancer.

Let’s explore some of those advances in more detail.

Analytics has been essential in the large-scale process of sequencing the human genome. Studies of our DNA continue to provide clues for early diagnosis and detection of disease in cancer patients. Plus, genetic analysis is now being used to analyze your risk of getting cancer in the future.

The five-year survival rate for childhood cancer patients has improved from 62 percent to 81 percent.

Personalized medicine – also a result of genomic sequencing – promises to provide treatment regimens designed specifically for an individual’s unique genetic makeup, resulting in fewer side effects and improving outcomes.

Data sharing is reaping huge rewards in the fight against cancer too. At the individual level, health tracker apps on our mobile devices are sending data to health care providers to improve patient care and provide early-warning signs in at-risk patients.

High-performance analytics, high-speed connections and affordable data storage have made large data-sharing projects possible in health care too. As a result, pharmaceutical companies that collect clinical data about a drug’s performance and insurers that study the outcomes of various treatment outcomes are finding new ways to safely share data. With these combined data sources from hundreds of studies and dozens of companies, researchers are finding deeper insights than ever before.

Forty years ago, interorganizational data sharing was an unfamiliar and untrusted concept. But today, the benefits are undeniable. Researchers are getting answers faster, reducing duplication of effort and improving efficiencies. Plus, rare cancer types and relatively neglected areas are easier to study with large amounts of detailed data.

Shared health outcomes data from large groups of similar patients is also used by cancer treatment centers. Health care providers can use it to gain deeper insight into the effects of various treatment options, meaning your loved ones are more likely to get the treatment that is right for them.

Thanks to analytics, survival rates are higher, treatments are more personalized and cancer research continues to expand.

1 National Institutes of Health Fact Sheet, Cancer.
Young girl in hospital bed

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