Pitt study: New model of collaborative cancer research may help advance precision medicine

December 15, 2015

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 15, 2015 - A new system that facilitates data and biospecimen sharing among cancer centers may speed cancer research findings from the laboratory to patient care, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The study was published December 15 in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Researchers from UPMC CancerCenter and its partner, the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Georgia Regents University Cancer Center, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania developed the TIES Cancer Research Network (TCRN). The researchers propose that the TCRN, a federated network that uses advanced text processing of medical reports, is a useful model to promote translational research across all cancer centers.

As the need for personalized therapies and precision medicine grows, the development of more sophisticated systems to facilitate the sharing of data and even tissue samples across centers is essential.

"With the TCRN, we can study rare diseases and rare behaviors of common diseases much more effectively. Investigators may not have enough cases at a single institution to support a compelling study, but they can now aggregate and access data and biomaterials across multiple institutions," said lead researcher Rebecca Jacobson, M.D., M.S., professor of Biomedical Informatics, Pitt School of Medicine, and chief information officer, Institute for Personalized Medicine.

Traditionally, cancer researchers from various institutions have collaborated through centralized networks, in which one institution accepts all of the relevant data and materials and makes it available to the others. Each individual study requires its own technology infrastructure and agreements to operate. As an alternative, the researchers set out to create one infrastructure that could be used for many studies, across many institutions, without moving any of the data.

"The centralized model cannot scale to a national network. Every new study or new institution means more work for the central data broker, and institutions don't want to cede their authority to manage their own data," Dr. Jacobson said. "This new network model provides the technology, legal agreements and standards needed to easily use de-identified data and tissue specimens across institutions. You can think about it like a superhighway for data and biomaterial sharing, helping researchers get there much, much faster. "

Jacobson's team previously developed the Text Information Extraction System (TIES), a state-of-the-art language processing system that serves as the underlying technology for TCRN.
-end-
This project is supported by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health grants R01 CA132672 and U24 CA180921, and in part by P30CA047904.

About the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

As one of the nation's leading academic centers for biomedical research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine integrates advanced technology with basic science across a broad range of disciplines in a continuous quest to harness the power of new knowledge and improve the human condition. Driven mainly by the School of Medicine and its affiliates, Pitt has ranked among the top 10 recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1998. In rankings recently released by the National Science Foundation, Pitt ranked fifth among all American universities in total federal science and engineering research and development support.

Likewise, the School of Medicine is equally committed to advancing the quality and strength of its medical and graduate education programs, for which it is recognized as an innovative leader, and to training highly skilled, compassionate clinicians and creative scientists well-equipped to engage in world-class research. The School of Medicine is the academic partner of UPMC, which has collaborated with the University to raise the standard of medical excellence in Pittsburgh and to position health care as a driving force behind the region's economy. For more information about the School of Medicine, see http://www.medschool.pitt.edu.

http://www.upmc.com/media

Contact: Jennifer C. Yates
Phone: 412-647-9966
E-mail: YatesJC@upmc.edu

Contact: Anita Srikameswaran
Phone: 412-578-9193
E-mail: SrikamAV@upmc.edu

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

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