These companies are teaming up to fight cancer with data

August 19, 2015, 1:00 PM UTC
pancreatic cancer cell
Close up of pancreatic cancer cell
Photograph by Getty Images

Two cancer technology startups said Wednesday that are teaming up to collaborate on using big data to help improve cancer treatment and diagnosis.

Guardant Health, a company that has developed a blood test to diagnose types of cancer, and Flatiron Health, a cloud-based medical software maker, are working together to share their data to help match cancer patients with successful chemotherapies.

Guardant says that there is significant overlap in the number of oncologists using its liquid biopsy tests and doctors who are also using Flatiron’s software to manage treatment for these patients. Because Guardant’s test can pinpoint how tumors have metastasized and how molecules have changed, doctors could potentially use the new data to see how to better treat a patient.

Guardant, which has raised nearly $100 million from Sequoia Capital, Khosla Ventures and others, says all data is anonymized and HIPAA-compliant, so no personally identifiable information is shared between the two companies.

Guardant Health CEO and co-founder Helmy Eltoukhy explained that a doctor could see how a certain tumor with a specific genetic makeup responds better to a particular trial treatment compared with other chemotherapies. The data could also show what didn’t work with certain patients, and how new drugs could be changed to fight a specific cancer, he added.

It’s worth noting that Guardant and Flatiron aren’t the only companies using big data to help diagnose and improve clinical outcomes for cancer. Others, including tech company Syapse is also tackling this space as well.

Eltoukhy said that while cancer diagnoses are only increasing (more than a million per year), drug development that can treat specific cancer mutations has not been able to catch up. He attributed this mainly to the fact that there aren’t enough patients being matched with drug trials. He said that his company would continue to partner with others to help share data around genomics and cancer.

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