Every year 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer and nearly half of those cases are considered incurable. But many of those “incurable” cases may be beatable by exploiting biological features unique to each individual’s cancer. I will talk about a convergence of recent developments in genomics, big data informatics, social networks, and personalized medicine that is transforming the landscape of cancer research and treatment. Instead of aiming our efforts toward curing “cancer” in the abstract, and often failing, we are now on the threshold of being able to give each individual the knowledge, resources, and tools needed to successfully treat the one disease that matters most to them.
In this new paradigm, cancer is managed as a chronic disease using an evolving cocktail of targeted- and immunotherapies individualized for each patient, much like HIV. Every treatment event is considered as a probe that simultaneously treats the patient and provides an opportunity to validate and refine the models on which the treatment decisions are based. I will discuss the challenges and opportunities of this personalized approach to oncology from an informatics perspective, including providing patients and their physicians with up-to-the-moment treatment recommendations, capturing the results of each patient encounter, rapidly extrapolating them to other patients, and coordinating all patient encounters to efficiently search the space of therapeutic options.