By Ahmar U. Zaidi, MD

“In God we trust. All others must bring data.”

The amount of data generated from the dawn of humanity until 2003 was 5 exabytes. Since then, 5 exabytes of data are created every two days. There is no doubt that our ability to collect and store data has exponentially increased in the past two decades in every field imaginable, and hematology is no exception. Large data sets of momentous importance to hematologists are being produced in a blazingly fast manner, and the techniques to assemble, curate, aggregate, and analyze them are keeping pace. The intersection of medicine, machine learning, and artificial intelligence is a bold frontier that promises to aid clinicians, scientists, and patients with decision making. It will also allow us to take giant leaps toward cutting-edge therapeutics and improved health care delivery. Tuesday’s Presidential Symposium seeks to bring these emerging realities to the fore and to demonstrate their multifaceted nature.

In her talk, Mary Horowitz, MD, MS, will explore how the iterative analysis of systematically collected data can be used to continually refine treatment strategies and to make clinical decisions for individual patients. With almost five decades of expertise, Dr. Horowitz will walk attendees through the clinical outcomes registry and show how this approach changed the process of selection of unrelated donors, leading to decreases in mortality and predictive algorithms for donor availability and transplantation outcomes. She will also discuss new techniques for the acquisition and analysis of big data, as well as barriers to adoption.

Russ Altman, MD, PhD, will discuss the application of computing and informatics technologies to advance the understanding of drug action at the molecular, cellular, organism, and population levels, with a focus on how human genetic variation affects adverse drug responses and how these analytic tools and technologies affect regulatory science and innovation.

Finally, Amy Abernethy, MD, PhD, of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will discuss and explore the impact of increasingly available high-quality and near-real-time clinical and biologic data on health care delivery and the development of therapeutics. The 21st Century Cures Act established a national agenda to modernize clinical evidence development, including streamlined clinical trial designs powered by informatics and the use of real-world evidence derived from electronic health records and other sources. She will discuss how electronic health record data linked to next-generation sequencing can be used to identify new drug targets, define treatment effectiveness, and generate contemporaneous control data for single-arm trials, while also supporting real-time health care quality monitoring and perhaps even new payment models. Dr. Abernathy will also discuss how partners across the ecosystem, including government, technology, biopharma companies, health care systems, clinicians, and researchers, are coming together to make this possible, and how the FDA can play a critical role to make that ecosystem more efficient by setting guideposts and establishing boundaries.

It is clear that the future of medicine rests in big data. By utilizing these data, real differences can be implemented in ways that actually help patients, physicians, and scientists. ASH has consistently been a trail-blazer in hematology, and promoting the discussion of big data in hematology at this level cements the Society’s determination to be forward-thinking. This is a can’t-miss session for annual meeting attendees, and one that will set the stage for the next several decades.

Dr. Zaidi indicated no relevant conflicts of interest.

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