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Genomic Data Commons to Open Up Cancer Data Sets

June 6, 2016
by David Raths
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The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has launched a Genomic Data Commons to help researchers share genomic and clinical data. Housed at the University of Chicago, the GDC will be a core component of the National Cancer Moonshot and the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI).

The GDC will centralize, standardize and make accessible data from large-scale NCI programs such as the Cancer Genome Atlas and its pediatric equivalent, Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments (TARGET).

Together, TCGA and TARGET represent some of the largest and most comprehensive cancer genomics data sets in the world, comprising more than two petabytes of data. In addition, the GDC will accept submissions of cancer genomic and clinical data from researchers around the world who wish to share their data broadly. In so doing, researchers will be able to use the analytic methods of the GDC, allowing them to compare their findings with other data in the GDC.

Data in the GDC, representing thousands of cancer patients and tumors, will be harmonized using standardized software algorithms so that they are accessible and broadly useful to any cancer researcher. The storage of raw genomic data in the GDC will also allow it to be reanalyzed as computational methods and genome annotations improve.

The GDC is being built and managed by the University of Chicago Center for Data Intensive Science in collaboration with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, under an NCI contract with Leidos Biomedical Research.

“Of particular significance, the GDC will also house data from a number of newer NCI programs that will sequence the DNA of patients enrolled in NCI clinical trials,” said Louis Staudt, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Cancer Genomics at NCI, in a prepared statement. “These data sets will lead to a much deeper understanding of which therapies are most effective for individual cancer patients. With each new addition, the GDC will evolve into a smarter, more comprehensive knowledge system that will foster important discoveries in cancer research and increase the success of cancer treatment for patients.”

The hope is that the GDC will form the basis for a comprehensive knowledge system for cancer. GDC researchers will be able to integrate genetic and clinical data, such as cancer imaging and histological data, with information on the molecular profiles of tumors as well as treatment response. From this perspective, the GDC would become an important resource for generating potentially actionable and life-changing information that ultimately could be used by doctors and their patients.