“Next Generation Platform” Marks New Era Of Cancer Research

GDC Cancer Research

After two years of development, the Genomic Data Commons (GDC) officially launched publicly on Monday June 6. This “next-generation platform” built and managed by the University of Chicago’s Center for Data Intensive Science, in partnership with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), is certain to be a vital game-changer in cancer knowledge and research.

Until now, genomic data was isolated in individual local management systems, making it difficult to share and access across the medical community. Depending on the size, some datasets could take up to several months to download.

Aggregating data to progress healthcare

The GDC, a cloud-based technology, enables  “unprecedented data access, analysis and sharing” of 4.1 petabytes (4.1 million gigabytes) of data from National Cancer Institute-supported research programs. The compiled data, which features more than 14,000 anonymized patient cases, can be accessed and contributed to at any time, by anyone in the research community. It provides an open-source method of research that many areas of the medical field are currently transitioning to.

It should be noted though that the GDC is not simply a dumping ground for data. The unique software infrastructure has the ability to standardize and harmonize data, as well as provide quality control in order to promote faster and more accurate analyses for researchers.

According to professor and director at the University of Chicago’s Center for Data Intensive Science, as well as the GDC’s principal investigator, Robert Grossman, “The Genomic Data Commons brings together genomic datasets and analyzes the data using a common set of methods so that researchers may more easily make discoveries, and, in this sense, democratizes the analysis of large cancer genomic datasets.”

The GDC is also unique in that it stores data that can sequence the DNA of patients enrolled in NCI clinical trials, thus individualizing each patient’s treatment so that the most effective therapies can be used for each individual’s unique situation. And if successful, the GDC’s software model will likely prove beneficial for other data-intensive areas of medicine and for diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

In the end, the goal is for the GDC to provide a “basis for a comprehensive knowledge system for cancer.” It will accelerate research and treatment to combat the destructive and dire nature of cancer, through innovative data-sharing technologies, and most importantly, community collaboration.

Samantha Hendricks
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