Varian Makes Investment In Oncora’s Machine-Learning Powered Cancer Research

Cancer treatment company Varian has made an investment in Philadelphia-based Oncora, a privately held company focusing on data-driven tools for physicians and researchers.

The duo plans to leverage their collective expertise to accelerate software development related to radiation treatments for oncology patients. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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Oncora’s flagship product, Oncora Patient Care, is a tool that gathers data from cancer patients and their treatments while tracking their progress. The result is machine learning-based data refinement that helps create predictive models that can better anticipate how treatments will work in specific patients.

The work Varian and Oncora plan to undertake together fits into the growing field of precision medicine. This sector aims to reduce the time and improve efficacy of treatments for each patient. Machine learning helps doctors predict what treatment is appropriate given the specific patient and the state of their illness.

Patient Care was developed alongside oncologists from The University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center. Oncora’s work builds on MD Anderson Cancer Center physician Benjamin Smith, M.D.’s Brocade software solution. According to a study published in the April 2016 issue of the Journal of the American College of Oncology, Brocade helped reduce physician research time by 70%. Oncora also gathered data from MD Anderson Cancer Center’s medical record system, tumor registry, and radiation therapy planning system.

Varian intends to use its new partnership with Oncora to further leverage the Patient Care system and on-hand data to better help physicians anticipate patient treatment and reduce the chance of toxicity. In addition, the duo will make use of Oncora’s Analytics platform, which takes a long-term view of patient response to treatment, to help researchers.

"We envision a world where all patients have access to the highest quality cancer care regardless of their location," said Corey Zankowski, senior vice president of Varian Oncology Software Solutions. "Oncora Medical's ability to aggregate vast amounts of patient data is designed to empower oncologists with a decision support tool to achieve the goal of elevating the standard of care across the country."