University of Chicago to build pediatric cancer data platform

Researchers at the University of Chicago will build a cloud-based software system to help curate pediatric cancer data.

Researchers at the University of Chicago will build a cloud-based software system to help establish a data coordination center as part of a National Institutes of Health initiative to curate pediatric cancer data.

The Gabriella Miller Kids First project aims to provide a central and well-curated genomic data source for childhood cancer and the University of Chicago team will contribute key technical elements to support the data-sharing, the university announced.

“Platforms that enable researchers to analyze securely large amounts of de-identified clinical and genomic data are one of our most powerful tools for making discoveries that improve children’s lives,” Robert L. Grossman, Ph.D., director for the university’s Center for Data Intensive Science, said in the announcement.

RELATED: Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Foundation Medicine partner on precision medicine education initiative

Grossman will team with pediatric cancer expert Sam Volchenboum, M.D., who directs the university's Center for Research Informatics, to build the platform. Volchenboum said the Kids First project is a major step forward for pediatric oncologists, as it will offer a deeper look into why some children develop cancer and the best, individualized treatment options for each patient.

There is already a significant database for cancer genomic data, but none yet specifically targeting pediatric cancers, according to the announcement. The Kids First database will provide valuable information to not just clinicians but patients, families, biomedical researchers and data scientists, according to the announcement.

RELATED: Researchers, healthcare providers navigate a new era of data sharing

Target precision therapies based on genomic data offer clinical teams more options for cancer patients, as FierceHealthcare has reported. Physicians are coming around on the technology, with 89% saying that genomics research will prove valuable over the next decade.

It will take a little more effort to convince payers, however, as many view genomics and precision medicine as “experimental.” Just 18% believe coverage frameworks should accommodate such treatments.