Eric Lefkofsky’s Big Data Approach to Better Cancer Care: Tempus Labs Leaves no Tumor Behind

Cancer is a sophisticated disease. Recent advancements in human genome studies have made it possible to look at cancer as a genetic disease, meaning that there is a set of genetic signatures unique to each cancer as well as cancer patient.


Scientist at Lund University in Sweden have successfully interrupted communication between a breast cancer tumor and cells in surrounding connective tissue. Using either drugs or gene editing, they have not only prevented the tumors from sending signals to the surrounding cells but have cause the cancerous tissue to produce oestrogen receptors. This is important as only tumors with those receptors respond favorably to hormone-blocking drugs such as tamoxifen, thereby improving cancer patients’ prognoses.


These results not only imply that it may be possible to treat cancer by targeting its environment, but that gene editing may be an effective mechanism to improve cancer patients’ outcomes.


Emerging clinical data oncology companies have increasingly shifted their focus to the use of what is known about the human genome as well as cancer as a genetic disease to improve therapy and essentially personalize treatment. Companies are increasingly relying on cancer patients’ genetic profiles to help health care professionals make more informed therapy decisions. In other words, the focus is increasingly shifting away from an umbrella approach in cancer treatment and moving more and more toward an individualized approach that is driven by genetics.


Tempus, which was founded in 2015 by Eric Lefkofsky, is one such company that takes advantage of cancer as a genetic disease to offer physicians better resources to make therapy recommendations. Tempus uses big data analytics – patient information at scale – as it ushers precision medicine.


Lefkofsky founded Tempus to address what he believes is one of the biggest hurdles in effective cancer care: siloed data. Health care data for each cancer patient who is seen by an oncologist have not been stored in such a way that they are accessible to all of the oncologists. As such, bits and pieces of cancer care data is scattered across the systems, inaccessible to all. Tempus is focused on building the largest library of molecular and clinical data and an operating system to actually make that information useful to researchers and physicians treating patients. By creating a library that holds all of the cancer care information, oncologist have the ability to see what has and has not worked in the past as well as patients’ genetic data in order to make more informed decisions.


As means of populating cancer patient data, the right questions have to be asked, according to Lefkofsky. Phenotypic, therapeutic and outcome response data encompasses answers to the following questions: Who is this patient? What drugs are they taking? How are they responding? And what’s their molecular composition? Once the answers are all in one place, some essential questions can be addressed in order to devise optimized treatment options for cancer patients.


Tempus collaborates with most of the National Cancer Institute’s comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. It offers services such as across-the-board cancer testing; sequencing of patients’ tumors and germline DNA, liquid biopsy of cell-free DNA, RNA sequencing of tumors, immune system characterization of tumors and patients, organoid cultures of tumor cells with drug testing, machine learning of all of these layers of information with the electronic medical record, pathology and medical imaging.


It also happens to be one of Chicago’s top ten health techs that has recently obtained unicorn funding status.


About Eric Lefkofsky

In addition to Tempus, Lefkofsky is a founding partner at Lightbank, the co-founder and chairman of Groupon, the co-founder of Uptake Technologies, Mediaocean, Echo Global Logistics and InnerWorkings. Lefkofsky has several philanthropic engagements, as well. He is the Trustee of the Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry and World Business Chicago. He also serves as the Board of Trustees’ Chairman of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Furthermore, he and his wife Liz co-chair the Lefkofsky Family Foundation that supports high-impact initiatives that improve lives in the communities served. Since 2013, the two have also been members of the Giving Pledge. Lefkofsky currently holds an adjunct professorship at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Lefkofsky obtained his Juris Doctor at the University of Michigan Law School. He is the author of Accelerated Disruption: Understanding the True Speed of Innovation.


For more information on Eric Lefkofsky, please visit, LinkedIn: ericlefkofsky, Twitter: @lefkofsky or Facebook: @eplefkofsky. For more information on Tempus, please visit, Facebook: @TempusLabs and Twitter: @TempusLabs.

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