Core cancer data elements could aid info sharing in oncology

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Several organizations are committing to develop a way to capture and report the characteristics, treatments and outcomes that each cancer patient should have in their electronic health records.

Known as the mCODE Initiative, collaborators include the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), CancerLinQ LLC (a not-for-profit subsidiary of ASCO), the MITRE Corporation and the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology Foundation. An initial set of common cancer data standards and specifications is available at

Data from most patients living with cancer is contained in various types of EHRs, but many of the systems prioritize the collection of different types of data, or use different terms to describe the same type of data, or collect data in different formats.

Consequently, this incompatibility limits the ability of cancer researchers and physicians to learn from patient records, hinders care coordination and adds administrative burdens and costs to all users, including practices and patients, says ASCO President Monica Bertagnolli.

“With mCODE, we’re bringing the oncology community together around common data standards that will bring us one step closer to our goal of learning from every patient with cancer,” she adds.

The mCODE elements are available at no charge and designed using standard and widely available medical terminologies. This means that a physician’s clinical query across different EHRs that each use mCODE should convey the same meaning and retrieve similar patient details.

“Publishing mCODE is an important step toward realizing incredible insights into treatments that the 97 percent of cancer patients not participating in clinical trials could generate,” explains Jay Schnitzer, MD, and MITRE’s chief technology officer. Through wide adoption and integration of cancer data standards, and the application of technologies like Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, shared treatment experiences could be turned into information that patients and clinicians can use to better navigate care options.”

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To use the standards, mCODE will offer a common data language and an open source, nonproprietary data model based on FHIR for interconnectivity across EHR systems. The standard elements further will support EHRs in capturing and processing complex genomic data generated by advances in molecular diagnostics and treatment.

Pilot sites are being done at several major hospitals across the nation, including Partners Healthcare and Intermountain Healthcare. Pilot findings will inform refinement of mCODE as it is deployed more broadly.

An application to join the new mCODE Council is available at

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