National Cancer Institute, University Partner on Big Data Initiative

December 8, 2014 in News

University of Chicago has announced plans to work with the National Cancer Institute to create a comprehensive computational facility that will expand access to cancer patients’ genetic data, which currently stored in different locations in varying formats, Clinical Innovation Technology reports (Pedulli, Clinical Innovation Technology, 12/2).

Project Details

The Genomic Data Commons project, expected to launch online by March 2015, will store and make navigable genomic data from approximately 10,000 cancer patients. The project is funded by a $36 million NCI grant. Currently, two NCI facilities can provide the raw information, but certain calculations take even advanced computer systems more than a month to solve (Venteicher, Chicago Tribune, 12/2).

The new facility will provide scientists with an interactive system and resources to help them identify subtypes of cancer, in an effort to accelerate research for treatments (Clinical Innovation Technology, 12/2).

John Cunningham, a University of Chicago professor and chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, also said the facility could allow a doctor to assess the severity of a patient’s cancer more precisely and prescribe medicine based on the patient’s specific genetics. He predicts the tools could be available within the next decade.

Privacy Concerns

Privacy advocates caution that patients may be identified if information is pieced together.

However, Robert Grossman — a University of Chicago professor of medicine and project director — said that names and birthdates will be removed from patient information, though age range and gender will not. In addition, only researchers approved by the National Institutes of Health will have access to the data (Chicago Tribune, 12/2).


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