By Ben Freeberg, Founder & Managing Partner
Cancer care is a fragmented industry ripe with inefficient care delivery, perverse incentives amongst key stakeholders, regulatory hurdles, and a complex, high-cost patient population. There is a growing dichotomy that exists in cancer care in the U.S. between the availability of clinically sound treatment options and the actual delivery of that care.
Notably, only 50% of oncology patients are treated in accordance with evidence-based medicine. And 25% of deaths (130,000 Americans annually) occur because cancer patients do not have access to evidence-based care. We need to close that access gap and prevent the unnecessary, avoidable passing of cancer patients.
When I was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, I was young, healthy and active. Even though I was familiar with our healthcare system, had incredible support from family and friends, and was treated by world class physicians at Memorial Sloan Kettering, dealing with cancer was not easy. To say it is difficult managing your way through our healthcare system on a good day is an understatement. Add in the 35 different medications I was taking each day and a chemotherapy regimen that made me neutropenic during most of my treatment, and suddenly navigating cancer seemed impossible.
The cancer journey is long, confusing and riddled with endless doctors appointments, side effects and stress. From day one of diagnosis (or even earlier), patients often lack a clear understanding of their treatment options and the support they receive during their journey is traditionally scarce and inconsistent.
Cancer spend in the U.S. is $210B, growing at 12% annually
These rising costs are unsustainable for healthcare stakeholders, notably for:
And, we know that cancer spend is impact-able, for example through:
Early detection: The opportunity for cost savings from early detection and diagnosis is $26B per year
Care navigation and support: 23% of emergency room ("ER") visits and 31% of hospitalizations are preventable during cancer treatment
Shift to hospital at home models: Oncology hospital at home models proved a 58% reduction in unplanned hospitalization, a 48% reduction in ER visits, and a 48% decrease in cumulative costs compared to patients treated in a non- hospital at home model
Empowering community oncologists: Cost of care was 20% to 39% lower for patients receiving chemotherapy in a community oncology clinic compared with the hospital outpatient setting
Improving hospice utilization: Which, for cancer patients undergoing active treatment has led to up to $19k per patient in annual cost savings
As such, there is incentive to improve outcomes and reduce costs for our oncology population. The need for equitable, affordable and efficient cancer care is far greater than the supply of efficient care solutions. Regulatory tailwinds are assisting with this push to value-based care in cancer care through the likes of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Enhancing Oncology Model, launching in July 2023.
Given the current incentive structure and infrastructure of oncology care, I believe that 3rd party, technology and data focused start-ups are best suited to tackle this opportunity to help improve outcomes and reduce costs for our cancer population who so desperately needs support.
Oncology Ventures will invest in those start-ups to fundamentally change the way cancer care is designed and delivered at scale. I believe that due to the inherent complexity of oncology and the significant variability that exists between cancer cases, even between patients with the same cancer diagnosis, cancer startups deserve a cancer-focused venture fund to help them scale.
Oncology Ventures will invest in and support oncology-focused data and infrastructure companies. We will not be investing in drugs, therapeutics or medical devices.
I am uniquely positioned to launch this cancer-focused venture capital fund as I have invested in it, built it and lived it:
I have invested in healthcare technology start-ups as a key decision maker at two venture capital funds (Vice President of Optum Ventures, where I worked closely with key UnitedHealthcare and Optum stakeholders, and 1st employee at Alpha Partners, where I am currently a Venture Partner)
I have helped to build a value-based cancer technology start-up (health plan partnerships and operations at Thyme Care)
I have lived it as a cancer patient (I am now five years cancer free)
Now, let’s go improve cancer care and save millions of lives.
Founder, Managing Partner