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    Four ways the genomic data commons will advance cancer care


    Cancer research is becoming more accessible due to a new initiative that gives researchers access to big data from thousands of patient cases.  In June 2016, the Genomic Data Commons (GDC), a web portal that features information on cancer tumors from more than 30,000 patients, was revealed to the public during the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting.









    The database is managed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the University of Chicago, and it is funded by the National Cancer Institute through President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative for Oncology.  A portion of the GDC data is open to the public, while qualified researchers can access more detailed data, says Louis M. Staudt, MD, PhD, senior investigator at NCI.

    “The database includes all common cancer types. There are 50 to 500 or more tumors in each type,” Staudt says. The pediatric database features 29 cancer types and more than 3,000 patient cases.

    What makes it unique

    The GDC is the first open-access cancer database that combines genetic information on cancer tumors and treatment information. In total, the database features 4.1 petabytes—or about 4 million gigabytes—of information. Staudt says that depending on the type of cancer included in the database, some behavioral or environmental data is collected, such as whether patients with lung cancers are smokers.

    “Data sets include genomic data from tumors from patients with cancer, clinical data, treatment and the results from treatment,” says Staudt. “There’s also genomic data mutations in DNA, RNA expressions data, which is the activity of genes in a cancer cell. It’s a multiple platform approach to looking at data.”

    Nearly 14,000 patient cases in the GDC came from the NCI. Foundation Medicine, a cancer genome analysis company, donated 18,000 cases, Staudt says

    “We can easily add many more thousands of patients from other public databases,” he says. “We are measuring the success of the Genomic Data Commons attracting other public data sets.”

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