In the mid-’90s, a revolution in cancer therapy swept through the field like wildfire. The so called targeted therapies began coming on scene. These drugs and treatments regimens promised to all but eliminate the horrible side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy. Since then, they have made real progress in allowing oncologists to specifically attack malignant cells, leaving healthy cells alone. This has led to the development of many new drugs, with the promise to radically increase the survivability of certain types of cancers.

Today, a new revolution is taking place in cancer treatment. Like the targeted therapy revolution, this new wave of innovation promises to dramatically increase survivability, while all but eliminating the collateral damage that so often accrues to those undergoing cancer treatment. This new revolution in cancer therapy involves the customization of treatment regimes, using mind-blowingly sophisticated means of automated, real-time analysis to tailor drugs and treatment course directly to individual patients’ needs.

One man, Eric Lefkofsky, is at the center of this new revolution in cancer treatment. Through his company, the recent startup Tempus, he seeks to take the vast troves of unparsed data, which are quickly expanding, due to the ability of cheap human genome sequencing, and connect all of the relevant dots.

Many people don’t realize how blunt even the most cutting-edge cancer treatments often are today. Within cancer types, there is little distinction between patient cohorts. A patient who is diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer is likely to receive essentially the same treatment as everyone else with the same diagnosis. But Tempus is about to change all of that.

Using high-tech machine learning algorithms, Tempus is taking vast amounts of genomic, research and medical record data and combining them to give oncologists and more complete and better-informed clinical picture of not just the patient’s disease but the treatment regimens that are most likely to maximize that patient’s survival. Through the use of this system, Lefkofsky believes that, someday soon, it will be possible to devise a totally custom treatment program, tailored to each individual patient. This could double or even triple average survival times in the next five to ten years.

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