Is Blockchain The Key to A Breakthrough in Cancer Research?

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    A revolutionary approach powered by the accumulation and analysis of massive amounts of health and biologic data is being preached but because of a number of reasons the practice is not currently is use and the reasons are due to large scale, expensive and centralized research projects that are subject to political manipulation and changing environment.

    Below are some of the critical failure points that remain untouched and are mostly responsible for the slow progress in cancer research.

    Undoubtedly the problem starts with siloed data which most hospitals and medical centres struggle to arrange in a proper way which ultimately affects informing clinical decision making. A lot of time, medical centres and practitioners sharing patients’ medical data involve liability when private medical records are involved. Medical data is often perceived as providing a competitive advantage for the institutions and researchers who generated them, presenting a dilemma of choosing between maintaining an advantage or enriching a common data set that advances cancer research.

    The biggest concern for any major cancer research program is the centralised nature of large scale research projects. Any centralised system when used to collect data from people is vulnerable enough for hackers to break through and that is why blockchain technology is so important here. Around 91% of health care organizations have experienced at least one data breach, costing more than $2 million on average per organization, according to the Ponemon Institute.

    Blockchain technology allows storing and sharing of data and information on a highly secure level. The technology is based on a decentralised system that not just stores data in a distributed and encrypted form but on the blocks of chain where each next block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block in the chain according to mobile app developers working on blockchain technology. This links all the blocks together in a chain and creates a decentralised transaction ledger which cannot be tampered with and hacked.

    Blockchain data can be either made visible publicly by the person or organisation that has uploaded their data to a blockchain address or it can be permissioned due to privacy reasons. Whether private or public, blockchain ledger allows the data to be verified consistently and its decentralised nature prevents it from external attacks. This process of adding information on a blockchain and allowing it to be viewed by everyone involved provides a transparent view into the historical sequence of facts and events.

    Blockchain technology provides a solution for collecting, analysing and sharing medical data and gives people the ownership of their health data. Patients can upload and share their health information on the blockchain as they desire and since sharing data are in the hands of the data owner/uploader, cross-border and privacy regulations no longer apply. Patients can share part or all of their data with a third party as need be. However in order to give patients an incentive to upload their health data on the public ledger, medical R&D and health care industry participants could offer crypto tokens in exchange for limited views into the blockchain.

    The more people add their health data on blockchain the more value they receive and the more medical researchers are able to use that information to conduct research and uncover unseen relationships that contribute to the disease.


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