Our Story

It Started Back in 1998…

“In 1998, I was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, a disease with a dire prognosis. Leading oncologists’ recommendations varied widely, so I set forth on a desperate quest for the treatment that would work best for me. Ultimately, an experimental treatment saved my life.” —Marty Tenenbaum, PhD, founder of Cancer Commons

While that treatment ultimately failed clinical testing, Marty was among the fortunate few who responded and survived. But that only raised more questions: Why did it work for him and not for others? Could his experience help similar patients find their best-possible treatments?

Known for his work in technology development and artificial intelligence, Marty saw that countless other patients could benefit from a better way to capture and share the world’s collective cancer knowledge. So, he created Cancer Commons—a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides personalized treatment option reports to metastatic cancer patients, while learning from every patient to help others urgently seeking answers.

Marty Tenenbaum, PhD
Our founder shares his vision to integrate research and clinical oncology, and how real-time, patient-centric, virtual clinical trials help everyone

We’re Here to Help

Metastatic cancer is one of the most devastating experiences one can face. People with cancer may be overwhelmed and confused by their treatment options. Or, they’ve already tried several treatments, but nothing seems to work.

Cancer Commons is a network of patients, physicians, and scientists dedicated to helping people identify and access their—or their loved one’s—best-possible, personalized treatment plan. We draw on the most up-to-date research, insights from leading cancer experts, and outcomes from patients on treatments beyond the standard of care so those we serve can be confident they’ve left no stone unturned.

Our virtual, distributed approach enables us to reach anyone with internet access, so we can help patients of diverse backgrounds find cutting-edge treatments close to home.

Why We Go to Work Each Day

Many advanced cancer patients and their caregivers lack access to high quality cancer care, knowledge, and resources. They feel left alone to navigate a vast, complex sea of treatment information. While facing slim odds, they are asking themselves, “What now?”

These are the people we want to help each day.

We want to work together, across medical silos, and surface the best possible treatments for each patient with advanced cancer.

Our Services

Cancer Commons brings together a team of nurse navigators, PhD scientists, physicians, and national experts, who combine compassion with deep scientific knowledge to help patients understand their disease and access their best treatment options.

We connect each patient with one of our scientists, who may:

  • Review the patient’s medical history
  • Research additional testing that could impact the patient’s treatment plan
  • Identify clinical trial options available for the patient
  • Investigate access to new or off-label treatments
  • Obtain key insights from cancer experts through virtual tumor boards

Our goal is to equip patients with the knowledge they need to choose their best plan of action—all at no cost to them.

  • You’re not alone. Cancer Commons is a great resource and sounding board to ask questions and get advice and support.

    Karen
    Advanced breast cancer patient

  • Emma has been wonderful. She has been in touch regularly.

    Elise
    Ovarian cancer patient

  • Now is the time to be very actively involved in your own care.

    Tony Blau, MD
    University of Washington

  • Emma has been so helpful and kind to my wife.

    Husband of cancer patient

  • My family is so grateful for the information and guidance we received from Cancer Commons during a particularly stressful time where a decision needed to be made quickly. We are particularly thankful for the help and assistance of Matthew Warner…It helped give us confirmation that the trial we were looking at for my dad’s recurrent GBM was a reasonable and good decision.

    Megan
    Daughter of Glioblastoma patient

Why Cancer Commons?

  • We cut across all cancer types, institutions, and disciplines, to help patients assess their best options
  • We are an unbiased organization able to identify the best experts, tests, treatments, and clinical trials—free of institutional or commercial constraints
  • We have a decade of experience working with advanced cancer patients, making us pioneers in direct-to-patient services
  • We spend time with patients, offering continuous guidance throughout their journey (on average a patient engages 25+ times)
  • Our virtual educational process can reduce treatment delays and can be more comprehensive than seeking individual experts’ opinions
  • 98% of patients say they would recommend our services

Why Cancer Commons?
Hear Rachel's story

Meet the Team that Cares

Collectively, we have centuries of experience in oncology, medical technology, patient advocacy, artificial intelligence, and clinical research. 

Marty Tenenbaum, PhD
Founder & Chairman of the Board

Marty Tenenbaum, PhD
Founder & Chairman of the Board

Marty Tenenbaum is a renowned computer scientist, Internet entrepreneur and cancer survivor. He founded Cancer Commons and CollabRx (NASD: CRLX) to help each cancer patient obtain the best possible outcome. He is an Internet commerce pioneer and visionary, having founded EIT (1990) and CommerceNet (1994) to accelerate business use of the Internet, and later, was an officer and director of Commerce One, Webify Solutions (sold to IBM in 2006),  and Medstory (sold to Microsoft in 2007). He currently serves on the boards of Efficient Finance, Patients Like Me, and the Public Library of Science (PLoS).

Dr. Tenenbaum is a fellow and former board member of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), and a former consulting professor of Computer Science at Stanford. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT, and a Ph.D. from Stanford.

George Lundberg, MD
Contributing Editor

George Lundberg, MD
Contributing Editor

A 1995 “pioneer” of the medical Internet, Dr. Lundberg was born in Florida in 1933, grew up in lower Alabama, and holds earned and honorary degrees from North Park College; Baylor University; the University of Alabama (Birmingham and Tuscaloosa); the State University of New York, Syracuse; Thomas Jefferson University; and the Medical College of Ohio.

Dr. Lundberg received his MD in 1957 and has split the ensuing 62 work years across 4 key domains:

    • First Quarter: government service; U.S. Army Medical Corps, Vietnam Era, LTC, and Los Angeles County (Laboratory Director).
    • Second Quarter: full time academia; USC (Professor of Pathology) and UC Davis (Professor and Chair of Pathology).
    • Third Quarter: not-for-profit publishing (Editor in Chief JAMA and VP for all scientific publishing AMA)
    • Fourth Quarter: for-profit entrepreneurialism (Medscape, WebMD, MedPage Today, Everyday Health, CollabRx, Self Care Catalysts, PotentiaMetrics, Cureus) and not for profit (Cancer Commons, Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern,The Lundberg Institute).

Dr. Lundberg has worked in tropical medicine and forensic medicine in multiple countries. He is past president of the American Society for Clinical Pathology. A frequent lecturer and webcasting guest and host and a member of the National Academy of Medicine, in 2000, The Industry Standard dubbed Dr. Lundberg “Online Healthcare’s Medicine Man.”

Emma Shtivelman, PhD
Chief Scientist

Emma Shtivelman, PhD
Chief Scientist

Emma Shtivelman is a molecular and cell biologist with extensive experience in cancer biology. She has in-depth understanding of cancer signal transduction and metabolism, cancer models in vitro and in vivo, target and drug discovery and validation, assay development, and preclinical research. She has technical expertise in numerous modern methodologies employed to understand the molecular basis of human malignancies and advance preclinical and clinical research.

Emma received her PhD in molecular biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science where she identified the fused transcript between two cellular genes, BCR and ABL in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), the first demonstration of an oncogenic gene product derived from a chromosomal translocation. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), she characterized the molecular consequences of chromosomal translocations in Burkitt lymphoma and identified gene products relevant to the pathogenesis of neuroblastoma.  She worked at Systemix on establishing a novel SCID-hu metastasis model to enable the in vivo analysis of human tumor metastasis. She continued her research activity at the UCSF Cancer Center analyzing deregulation of signal transduction pathways in human cancer and the molecular underpinnings of metastatic progression. Before joining Cancer Commons, Emma worked at BioNovo, Inc., researching new drugs that selectively disrupt metabolism of breast and pancreatic cancers by targeting their metabolic preferences.

Shelley Frisbie
Chief Financial Officer

Shelley Frisbie
Chief Financial Officer

Shelley has served as the chief financial officer of Cancer Commons since 2019. She has over 30 years of accounting and finance experience for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

For the past 12 years she supported the nonprofit community as CFO/Director of Finance or provided financial support for clients including TED, Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, Community School of Music and Arts, Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and other local nonprofits.

Shelley brings expertise in analysis, advice, and guidance regarding operation and strategic issues and enjoys working collaboratively with other members of the team to strengthen organizational effectiveness. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration with an Accounting Concentration from San Jose State University and is also a licensed California Real Estate Broker. 

Deborah Christensen, MSN, APRN, AG-CNS, AOCNS, OCN
Patient Navigator

Deborah Christensen, MSN, APRN, AG-CNS, AOCNS, OCN
Patient Navigator

Deb recently retired from Intermountain Healthcare where she served as an RN for 27 years. She is licensed as an Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist with an oncology specialty.   Deb is passionate about supporting patients diagnosed with cancer, developing patient education, and implementing processes and programs based on current evidence. She is excited to start a new relationship with Cancer Commons.

Deb is the published author of the Health Change Trajectory Model, a model for viewing uncertainty during health challenges. She writes for the Oncology Nursing Society’s News magazine, VOICE, and other nursing publications. 

Deb lives in the red rock country of Southern Utah and enjoys time with family and friends in the outdoors.

Lola Rahib, PhD
Scientist

Lola Rahib, PhD
Scientist

Lola Rahib earned her PhD at UCLA in biomedical engineering and has worked for several biotechnology start-up companies in the Los Angeles area. More recently, she was at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network where she led scientific research and initiatives, including a molecular profiling program, a patient registry, and an early detection initiative. In addition, she has authored many publications that have contributed to the field of pancreatic cancer, including the most-cited paper of 2014 in the journal Cancer Research. The study projected cancer incidences and deaths to 2030, predicting that pancreatic cancer would move from the fourth- to the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States by 2030.

Martha Dehnow
Contract Manager

Martha Dehnow
Contract Manager

As Contract Manager, Martha Dehnow handles all aspects of finance and accounting for Cancer Commons. Her specialty is helping startups and small companies grow to their fullest potential by allowing founders to focus on their core business. Prior to Cancer Commons, Martha worked for CommerceNet and BDNA Corporation. She has also worked for early stage startups, such as EIT and Veo Systems, which were later acquired by VeriFone, Hewlett-Packard, and CommerceOne.

Kaumudi Bhawe, PhD
Scientist

Kaumudi Bhawe, PhD
Scientist

Kaumudi Bhawe earned her PhD from the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work at Florida International University, where she was a recipient of the Dean’s Award of Excellence for her doctoral dissertation research, in which she discovered and characterized NRF1 transcription factor activity associated with advanced brain cancer. 

Dr. Bhawe has presented at national conferences, and some of her most recent work has been published in the journal Molecular Neurobiology. She has more than 15 years of drug development experience in the biotechnology industry, following her initial graduate training at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as a Biomedical Engineer. She has led cross-functional research projects in multiple biotech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Genentech. 

Dr. Bhawe has a deep understanding of oncology signal transduction and expertise in numerous modern biological techniques, and she has successfully contributed to cancer drug discovery, target validation, assay development, companion diagnostics, and clinical development of novel cancer therapies. Dr. Bhawe has devoted her career to improving the treatment of cancer patients, from bench to bedside.

Matt Warner, PhD
Scientist

Matt Warner, PhD
Scientist

Matthew Warner, PhD, is an accomplished cell and molecular biologist with extensive experience performing translational research in the clinical sciences.

Matthew received his PhD in Clinical Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge, England, and had focused much of his scientific career towards understanding how dysregulation of signal transduction pathways and gene expression control at both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional level play key roles during oncogenesis, tumor-associated angiogenesis, and the establishment of metastatic disease.

Matthew successfully led multiple drug discovery programs and target-validation studies related to improving the treatment of metastatic cancer and vascular disease. He also played a key role in the development of a new liquid biopsy diagnostic tool to identify early-stage treatment efficacy and toxicity in renal cell carcinoma patients receiving anti-angiogenic therapy.

Matthew’s expertise in how cancer exploits the vasculature to help establish metastatic disease in distant tissues has resulted in his work being published in Nature and Science Translational Medicine and helped provide the necessary pre-clinical evidence for initiating a clinical trial in breast cancer patients whose cancer has spread to the bone. Matthew now focuses his efforts here at Cancer Commons to assist our patient population dealing with cancers of the central nervous system.

Masako Yokota
Director of Administration

Masako Yokota
Director of Administration

As Director of Administration and Executive Assistant to Marty Tenenbaum, Masako works behind the scenes, taking care of critical logistics so that Marty can focus on the bigger vision of Cancer Commons and make it a reality.

Prior to joining Cancer Commons, Masako worked in a variety of sectors, including venture capital, real estate, academia, and technology. With 10+ years of experience supporting C-level executives, she aspires to apply all her knowledge and assist the team to achieve the best resolutions. As a non-smoker lung cancer survivor, she is committed to increasing awareness of the stigma surrounding this particular form of cancer.

Masako, a native of Japan, has a B.A. in music and teaches piano and voice. She also performs at local venues including hospitals and care facilities.  She recently directed a program to benefit Cancer Commons and performed music by George Gershwin, who is believed to have succumbed to glioblastoma.

Shan Fowler
Director of Institutional Giving

Shan Fowler
Director of Institutional Giving

Shan brings her passion for health equity and medical research to her work at Cancer Commons after having served American Cancer Society for twelve years in multiple capacities, from operations and regional director to grant writer for fourteen western US states, the Pacific Rim (Guam), and Africa (Kenya).

She has raised significant funding for patient navigation, community healthcare, patient transportation and patient/caregiver lodging during treatment, healthcare systems change, and medical research. Outside of the cancer space, her fundraising work has focused on responses to environmental and systemic racism.

Prior to moving into the development field, Shan studied music and worked in journalism at the University of California, Irvine. She has been the conductor of University Synagogue Choir for over twenty years and sings professionally for organizations of several different faith traditions.

Sandy Noack
Individual Giving Coordinator

Sandy Noack
Individual Giving Coordinator

As Cancer Commons’ patient concierge, Sandy serves as a personal liaison to major donors, their colleagues, families, and friends navigating their cancer journey with assistance from Cancer Commons, in search of relevant trials, treatment options, and expert insights and rationales to share with their oncological team for the best possible outcome. As Cancer Commons’ development officer, Sandy collaborates with our leadership and major donors to thoughtfully grow and strengthen Cancer Commons’ network of support.

Sandy also works as a consulting development officer for the Hide & Seek Foundation for Lysosomal Research, raising funds in support of collaborative, cutting-edge medical research, and knows well how intellectual exploration and collaboration can lead to magnificent contributions.

Prior to joining the Cancer Commons team, Sandy managed a $5M round one capital investor fundraising program at CollabRx, Inc., developing a prospective investor list and working hand-in-hand with CollabRx Founder Marty Tenenbaum to cultivate prospective investors.

Sandy has a M.A. from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.

Sarah Stanley
Science Writer

Sarah Stanley
Science Writer

At Cancer Commons, Sarah Stanley prepares actionable, reader-friendly content for people dealing with cancer. She has also written for Stanford Medicine, PLOS, the University of Washington, Kaiser Permanente, the American Geophysical Union, and more. Sarah studied microbiology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Filipe Dinis
Designer

Filipe Dinis
Designer

Filipe is responsible for all things related to the visual styling of the Cancer Commons brand. Based in sunny Lisbon, Portugal, he has a degree in graphic design and a passion—and obsession—for coherently beautiful designs in all of Cancer Commons’ touch points and marketing efforts.

Beyond Cancer Commons, Filipe has collaborated with companies of all sizes across three continents and produced designs in eight different languages. His mission is to contribute towards a prettier world, and he hopes to see Comic Sans banned from every computer someday. 

Sae Yamada
Executive Assistant

Sae Yamada
Executive Assistant

Sae graduated from Keio University in 1997 and has since been leveraging her multi-lingual/cultural skills in support of diplomats (Brunei Embassy Japan) and C-Level Management (Malaysia & USA) in her EA career. A breast cancer survivor, Sae feels privileged and humbled to serve meaningfully towards achieving humanitarian objectives as part of the Cancer Commons team.

Patrick van der Valk, MSc
Head of Marketing

Patrick van der Valk, MSc
Head of Marketing

Patrick has a 20+ year history of success in marketing and project management. He has helped dozens of CEOs and other corporate leaders with international expansion, marketing, automation, strategic planning, business development, and branding. These corporate leaders communicate their desired outcomes to Patrick while he works on selecting and integrating the appropriate tools, services, and processes that fit their needs and give them solutions that are often well beyond what they expect.

Patrick’s ability to leverage his broad knowledge and integrate the work of many specialists sets him apart from others. As a scientist by trade, a technologist by interest, and a marketer by experience, he connects with ease and promotes communication between these three skill groups.

For Cancer Commons, Patrick is responsible for the website, SEO, as well as content creation and promotion. He helps solve commercial problems and has a passion for delivering solutions that go beyond organizational expectations, creating success for everyone involved.

Board Of Directors

Our Advisory Board

Why Did We Build a “Commons”?

Advanced cancer can be thought of as thousands of distinct diseases, and far more subtypes and potential treatments exist than can be tested in clinical trials. Patients who have exhausted standard options may receive off-label drugs or novel drug combinations, but their outcomes are rarely shared.

To solve this conundrum, we’re working with like-minded partners to build a Commons platform—augmented by artificial intelligence and precision-oncology tests and services—that enables the biomedical community to continuously learn from the experiences and outcomes of all patients. This shared knowledge can inform treatment of current and future patients, ultimately improving outcomes for all.

A key partner in this endeavor is xCures, a spinoff of Cancer Commons founded to scale the Commons platform to meet the needs of the entire cancer community.

We’re already applying the Commons framework in collaborations that serve patients in key focus areas. Our mission is to be the center of wisdom for everyone with advanced cancer and serve at least 100,000 patients across all cancer types by 2025.

Partners

We welcome partnerships with other organizations and institutions who share our patient-centric philosophy. Whether you would like to refer patients with challenging cases to us, or offer your services to our patients, we want to hear from you.

Newest Expert Oncology Collaborators

Pancreatic Cancer
Dr. David Chang
Associate Professor Of Surgery,
University of Glasgow
Pancreatic Cancer
Davendra Sohal, MD, MPH
Physician,
University of Cincinnati
Ovarian Cancer | Uterine Cancer
Jean-Marie Stephan, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor,
Rush University Medical Center
Pancreatic Cancer
Allyson Ocean, MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine,
Weill Cornell Medicine
Pancreatic Cancer
Shaalan Beg, MD
Associate Professor,
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Brain Cancer
Eric T. Wong, MD
Co-Director, Brain Tumor Center,
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

All Experts

Our Finger on the Pulse

From new clinical trial findings to remarkable patient stories, our expert team and distinguished guest contributors curate and report on the latest, most important developments in New Cancer Research & Perspectives. These stories provide valuable insights and hope for people on their own cancer journey.

Talk to Us

For help with your or your loved one’s personal cancer treatment plan, please contact us at HelpMe@CancerCommons.org. Or, call our Patient Hotline: 1-877-971-1200

To make a philanthropic gift, please reach out to Shan at Give@CancerCommons.org.

For partnerships and collaboration requests, contact Marty at Partners@CancerCommons.org.

For public relations and media requests, please contact Patrick at News@CancerCommons.org.

For all other inquiries, please email Info@CancerCommons.org.

Mailing address:

650 Castro Street, Suite 120-522
Mountain View, CA  94041