By Satish Sanan, Inspirata
In 2012, within a relatively short period of time, my wife and I lost three close family members to different types of cancer. Back then, I was spending most of my energy on a horse-racing business with two big farms and 350 horses. But after my sister-in-law died from cancer at 40, at the height of our grieving period, my wife asked me why I was wasting all my time and money on horses when I could be doing something about this. She knows I like complex problems. My first thought was – I’m not a physician, how am I going to impact cancer care? But the question nagged at me.
Eventually, I sold my farm in Kentucky and all my animals and resigned from the 21 company boards I was serving on. I decided I was going to see if there was something I could do to have a positive impact on cancer patients. As a serial entrepreneur in the tech space, I wanted to find an industry-disrupting technology, so I set out looking for it at every bioinformatics and oncology conference in the country. I ended up meeting and partnering with Inspirata’s founder, Dr. Mark Lloyd, a cancer researcher who at that time was working at the Moffitt Cancer Center.
At that time, I knew very little about the process of cancer diagnosis, but I knew that for patients and their families, it needed to happen as quickly, efficiently, and accurately as possible. We thought that by creating a database of cancer patients with the experiences of past patients, we could facilitate enhanced decision-making opportunities and create disruptive artificial intelligence algorithms to provide doctors with new insights. I asked Mark, “How many patients do you have now?” and he said, “About 9,000.” But I wanted to know – why not nine million?
That question became my north star as I started traveling the world to learn more about the cancer care continuum, starting with how it’s diagnosed and following its many possible paths along each patient’s experience. It took me a long time to really learn the business. I’m still learning it, but throughout my travels and my research, there are three issues that make it apparent how broken the cancer care continuum is and how informatics can help fix it:
With the progress the industry has made with digital pathology, AI, NLP, and informatics, there’s reason to hope that, in five to 10 years, we will get to the point where data is a powerful tool placed directly in the hands of patients. Until then, we’ll continue pushing to get that information into a precise form, into the hands of clinicians so they can make the right diagnosis and design the right therapy. By making data accessible and actionable, we can help clinicians and their patients make every moment matter.
About The Author
Satish Sanan is Chairman and CEO of Inspirata, a global digital pathology company that pioneered the use of digital imaging for accurate cancer diagnoses, and now offers cancer registry abstraction and insight solutions to drive better cancer diagnosis, treatment, performance, and research.