Helping the NIH use informatics to combat cancer

New eBook, Oncology Informatics, accelerates the fight against cancer using health information technologies in modern care systems


I picked up the phone last week to dial into a conference call with Drs. David Ahern, Bradford Hesse and Ellen Beckjord, editors of the recently published eBook Oncology Informatics. As the phone line gave a soft ding to indicate someone had just joined the call, I heard Dr. Hesse say with excitement, “I’ve missed these calls!”

I smiled. It’s not something you hear every day, let alone from the busy authors and editors we work with in the Research Reference Content group at Elsevier. Then again, it’s not every day you have a project like Oncology Informatics and get to work with people like Brad, David and Ellen.

The book serves as a much-needed blueprint for accelerating the fight against cancer using health information technologies in modern care systems, which is more important than ever in light of President Obama’s Cancer Moonshot initiative. With an impressive roster of contributors working at the highest levels of cancer research, informatics, and healthcare – not to mention the editors are some of the most accomplished and well-respected figures in their fields – we wondered: why did they decide that Elsevier was the right partner to publish such an important work?

Dr. Bradford Hesse is Chief of the Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute, one of the institutes within the National Institutes of Health (NIH).To find out, I and several of my colleagues sat down with Dr. Hesse to find out more about his experiences with publishing and what Elsevier offers that other publishers don’t. We developed our talk into a profile on Dr. Hesse, which was included in our parent company’s 2015 RELX Annual Report (page 20). For him, it was all about Elsevier’s ability to reach multidisciplinary audiences, as well as support through the use of advanced technology tools to enhance and ease the editing process and measure the impact of the research. He told us:

Elsevier’s cutting-edge expertise and undaunted commitment has been invaluable as we prepare to publish my work. It knows how to reach a multidisciplinary audience for this book and has provided me with the support I needed every step of the way.

As you can imagine, reaching a multidisciplinary audience is crucial for a book that spans advances in oncology, changes and reform to the American healthcare system, and for leveraging the huge amounts of data coming from healthcare systems. In a way, Oncology Informatics has been a microcosm of the Cancer Moonshot initiative, breaking down barriers to facilitate more effective collaborations and accelerating cancer care over the next decade.

In this light, it’s not surprising that Oncology Informatics has played a pivotal role in shaping the President’s Cancer Panel report, which will be released in September. As members of the panel, Drs. Hesse and Ahern have been moderating discussions and finding solutions to how we can create a better connected health system and a more patient-centered approach to cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship by leveraging available data systems and new technologies (such as wearable devices and sensors) and gaining a deeper understanding of the real-world environments in which people live.

Collaboration, data and innovation are essential to the work and research our authors do every day. It’s also fundamental to what we do at Elsevier. As the largest scientific publisher in the world, it’s our job to make scientific content more accessible, easier to interact with and understand, and more usable for more people. It’s our job to develop innovative new products and information solutions, like Scopus and SciVal, to help researchers make discoveries more easily. And it’s our moral and social responsibility to participate in the conversation about how to subdue diseases like cancer once and for all. That’s why we partner with people like Drs. Hesse, Ahern and Beckjord and work so hard to make books like Oncology Informatics a reality.

Our goals are the same: Reach more people. Find new solutions. Make new connections. That is what got us to the moon before, and we are ready to do it again.



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