Toward Fewer Cancer Deaths: Tempus and Eric Lefkofsky’s Personalized Cancer Data Initiative


The number of people dying from cancer is on the decline thanks to several factors, among which advancements in treatment and diagnosis are most impactful.


The latest American Cancer Society (ACS) data reports that cancer death rates have dropped by 26% since 1991, or nearly 2.4 million fewer cancer deaths. Furthermore, according to the ACS, this decline is due to a combination of factors, one of the most impactful being a reduction in smoking. And while a leading cause of cancer death is undoubtedly lung cancer, 45% fewer men from 1990 to 2015 and 19% fewer women from 2002 to 2015 have suffered from the condition.


Several other prevention strategies have led to the downward pattern of mortality rates, including screening tests such as mammograms for breast cancer, blood tests for prostate cancer and colonoscopy for colon cancer. However, the effectiveness of these preventative measures have been questioned as some studies were not successful in demonstrating an association between the screening tests and a reduction in death from the cancers they are screening. According to Ahmedin Jemal, vice president of surveillance and health service research at ACS and the senior author of the report, screening methods must be improved. He states that, “In the future, we need to figure out how to make screening tests more perfect by detecting cancers or lesions that if left unchecked or undetected, would grow and advance and become lethal.”


Another key factor that has contributed to lower death rates as well as fewer new cancer diagnoses have been advancements in the treatment of cancer patients. One company that focuses on enhancing both cancer treatment and diagnosis is Chicago’s Eric Lefkofsky, the company’s co-founder and CEO aims to improve the way cancer patients are diagnosed by implementing data driven cancer treatment options that would individualize therapeutic approaches. In other words, his aim is to use big data that would make cancer data more accessible and enable physicians to offer personalized treatment options.


The use of Tempus’ gene-sequencing and data analysis is key to company’s effort to enable personalized medicine for its cancer patients. Providing analytics has recently become a lot more accessible to companies that drive precision medicine. Even though it has been discussed since the mapping of the human genome more than a decade ago, it has yet to be widely practiced.


“The elephant in the room is cancer (and other diseases) that endlessly consume our resources, impoverish our healthcare system, and deflate the spirit of every patient and family member battling disease,” according to Lefkofsky. Tempus focuses to address the discrepancy between patient data storage and access. The biggest issue is the subpar collection and storage of patient treatment results – this information is typically only accessible to the patient’s health care provider. The amassed patient data is complex and its processing and analysis are not best suited for designing the best treatment plans. In order to address the lack of data storage, processing and analysis as well as to bridge the gap between patient data and personalized cancer care, Tempus’ approach includes sequencing, analytics, reporting and validation. In his blog, Lefkofsky states that “while up until now we were powerless to combat illnesses such as cancer, overwhelmed by its complexity, we now have for the first time, the tools we need to peer inside the body and understand what makes us healthy and what makes us sick.” “Advances in molecular sequencing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence have armed us in ways that were truly unimaginable by those fighting on the front line.”


About Eric Lefkofsky

Lefkofsky is one of Chicago’s most influential entrepreneurs. In addition to Tempus, Lefkofsky is the co-founder of Lightbank, the co-founder and chairman of Groupon, the co-founder of Uptake Technologies, Mediaocean, Echo Global Logistics and InnerWorkings. His philanthropic endeavors include being a 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. He and his wife Liz co-founded the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, and both are also members of the Giving Pledge as of 2013. 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 also 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.


About Tempus

Founded in 2015, Tempus offers an interactive and analytical machine learning platform through which it enables physicians to deliver personalized cancer care for patients. Through its DNA/RNA genomic sequencing services and analysis of molecular and therapeutic data, it enables physicians to make real-time, data-driven decisions. The company’s goal is for each patient to benefit from the treatment of others who came before by providing physicians with tools that learn as Tempus gathers more data. The laboratory’s yearly processing capacity is data for 50,000 patients. Tempus has several collaborations with academic institutions as well as several of the nation’s top cancer centers. For more information on Tempus, please visit, Facebook: @TempusLabs and Twitter: @TempusLabs.




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