Verizon, NantWorks Using Big Data for Cancer Treatment

Verizon is collaborating with NantWorks on a new plan to use big data to aid cancer treatment, which could create a new type of specialty within the health care field.

Big data has a big role in furthering cancer research and treatment. Verizon is working on a new partnership with NantWorks to develop the Cancer Knowledge Action Network, a cloud database that will help doctors improve cancer care.

NantWorks makes ultra-low-power semiconductors, supercomputers and advanced networks for health care, commerce and digital entertainment.

The Cancer Knowledge Action Network will allow doctors to research protocols for the treatment of specific cancer conditions on mobile devices.

Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam announced the collaboration during his keynote address to the World Health Care Congress in Washington, D.C., on April 17.

The two companies will use Verizon's 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) broadband network and cloud infrastructure as the foundation for the project.

"The future of medicine is digital and mobile," Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, founder and CEO of NantWorks, said in a statement.

NantWorks and Verizon will work on translating big data into information accessible for cancer treatment.

"Our goal is to turn this data into actionable information at the point of care, enabling better care through mobile devices in hospitals, clinics and homes," said Soon-Shiong.

"We have a shared goal to develop and scale connected IT solutions, and one of the ideas we're talking about is using 'big data' to improve the treatment of cancer through a comprehensive database called Cancer Knowledge Action Network," said McAdam in his keynote.

Although plans are still being finalized for the Cancer Knowledge Action Network, Verizon will contribute technology from its platforms in security, identity management, health information exchanges, cloud computing and mobility, Dr. Peter Tippett, chief medical officer and vice president of Verizon's health care practice, wrote in an email to eWEEK.

Meanwhile, NantWorks' expertise in managing and analyzing genomic and cancer-related data will play a role in the project, Tippett added.

Dell and IBM have also recently announced big data projects involving cancer care. In November 2011, Dell announced it would donate its cloud infrastructure for storing data in pediatric cancer trials. Meanwhile, last month, IBM said its Watson supercomputer would be used to perform complex analysis on Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's large volumes of clinical data to allow doctors to form personalized treatment plans.

With disconnected health IT systems hurting care rather than helping, the industry needs "holistic" platforms to bring all the data together, McAdam suggested.

"In order to realize the full disruptive potential of technology, we need holistic approaches to solve these fundamental issues and deliver next-generation health care experiences to consumers," said McAdam.

Verizon's deal with NantWorks follows an agreement with Duke University, announced Oct. 5, 2011, to test health care technologies on mobile devices and in the cloud for commercial viability.

The communications provider also announced a partnership with Health Evolution Partners on Feb. 6 in which firms the buyout company invests in will develop mobile services that enable real-time care coordination.

At the World Health Care Congress, McAdam discussed Verizon's strategy to focus on its cloud architecture powered by 4G LTE and global IP networks. This architecture enables telehealth services and remote medical monitoring.

In 2011, the company combined its wireless and wireline health care platforms into a single organization called Verizon Health Care Connected Solutions to streamline its offerings in the health care vertical.

"Late last year, we brought all our wireless and wireline health care solutions into a single organization so that we can understand and approach this market in a more integrated way," said McAdam.

As part of its strategy in health care IT, Verizon will package its products for the health care vertical specifically, rather than offer horizontal platforms separately, Kannan Sreedhar, a managing principal in Verizon's health care practice, told eWEEK.

"From a vertical focus, clearly health care is the primary driver for us at this point in time," said Sreedhar.

Verizon's also working on a pilot video conferencing trial with health insurer WellPoint to allow people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, to be monitored remotely by a caregiver.

"Early results of these telemedicine trials show that hospitalizations go down and the time between hospitalizations goes up, thanks to these virtual consultations," said McAdam.

Verizon will unveil new health care services later this year to allow people with chronic diseases as well as those seeking wellness and prevention to share vital data in the cloud, he said.