The California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine has provided $1.2 million in funding for the Genomics Institute’s California Kids Cancer Comparison project. The project, led by the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute, is one of two selected by the new California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine, a public-private effort launched by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Essentially, the project will allow scientists at UC Santa Cruz to harness Big Data bioinformatics so doctors can more effectively identify potential treatments for California children with cancer who fail to respond to standard therapies.
According to David Haussler, professor of biomolecular engineering and scientific director of the Genomics Institute, the California Kids Cancer Comparison will enable clinicians to sort through a much larger pool of genetic data than has previously been available – including tumor sequencing data from children throughout California and around the world, as well as adults.
In addition, the framework will help patients, their advocates, clinicians and researchers upload, analyze and communicate relevant data via MedBook. Developed by Theodore Goldstein, a former Apple VP, the specialized social media platform is specifically designed to maintain privacy and security for patient data.
“Our goal is simple: Every kid in California with cancer who needs a second chance, should get a second chance,” Haussler told the UC Santa Cruz News Center. “Currently, too many kids are not getting the full advantage of complete genomic analysis. If the standard treatment does not cure a child with cancer, then we need to be doing all that we possibly can to use genomic analysis to come up with an alternate therapy.”
Haussler also told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that this project is a “milestone” for the Genomics Institute.
“Most hospitals are very confidential and clinical trials generally only publish summary results. But you have to gather a large enough sample size to see patterns and make a connection,” he explained. “We’ll be able to compare against the databases of these siloed institutions interactively and make recommendations in real time.”
As we’ve previously discussed on Rambus Press, Big Data is playing an increasingly major role in helping oncologists identify various risks, while improving care and treatment.
One such project recently highlighted by Bernard Marr of Forbes is the American Society for Clinical Oncology’s CancerLinQ. This initiative hopes to ultimately collate and analyze data from every cancer patient in the United States. Similarly, Flatiron Health recently launched the OncologyCloud, a Big Data program designed to collect data from medical records, doctor notes and billing information. Simply put, Flatiron collates and structures disparate streams into a relevant data flow that can be used for comparative analysis.
In addition to the above-mentioned initiatives, 14 cancer institutes across the United States and Canada have confirmed they will be using IBM’s Watson analytics engine to match cancer patients with the most appropriate treatments. According to Marr, Watson is even capable of recommending potential drugs that haven’t yet been tapped to treat cancer.
It should also be noted that there are a number of Big Data programs dedicated to researching and curing specific types of cancer. To be sure, the Dragon Master Foundation recently partnered with five U.S. pediatric hospitals to create a database of tissue samples taken from patients with rare childhood brain tumors.
“Just this year a study concluded that thanks to the advances in spotting and treating cancer, by 2050 no one under 80 will be dying from the disease,” Marr added. “Big Data-powered research and treatment programs will undoubtedly play a part in that victory, just as they continue to give us answers in every field of science.”