Breast Cancer and Big Data

big data, breast cancer, cure for cancer

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Somewhere inside big data could be the cure for cancer, or the end of heart disease, or a thousand other medical issues we might learn to mitigate or eradicate completely.

If we aggregate thousands of records, medicine becomes more personalized.  Sifting through data points will reveal treatment options and their effectiveness for various kinds of ailments.   We’ll be able to hyper-select treatment plans based on each patients unique profile of symptoms.

Breast cancer lends itself particularly well to big data because the disease takes on so many forms.  If we can bring patients together digitally and look at effective treatment options, we can do a lot to help them.  Here’s what’s happening today …

Rice University bioengineers have developed a BioWheel to specifically look at breast cancer proteins and their treatments.  The BioWheel involves hundreds of thousands of data points about the effects of stimulators and inhibitors on protein networks drawn from a set of four breast cancer cell lines.


Is there a difference between pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women?  Researchers at UPMC/University of Pittsburgh will be asking that question and many more over the next few years with the creation of their big data research project which launched at the end of 2012.  This big data project will be looking at massive amounts of data from clinical, genomic, proteomic, imaging, financial, and a whole lot more to try to personalize medicine for each breast cancer patient.

The National Institutes of Health has been recruiting breast cancer patients since 2006 for another big data project.  They are asking questions of patients and their families to gather information to help cure breast cancer in the future.  The study will be ongoing through 2020.  The study is “collecting personal information, medical history, diet and lifestyle habits, any past or current environmental exposures and to re-create a family tree for any cancers that have occurred in any family members.”

The state of California is also researching big data for breast cancer.  A collaboration of Stanford University School of Medicine, a private community-based practice in Palo Alto, CA and the California Cancer Registry is aggregating patient information between the years 2000 and 2012.  Approximately 12,000 patient records will be looked at in detail hoping to find some information which will help patients.

We’re looking forward to seeing the results from all this research in the months ahead.  What do you think of big data and cancer research?  If you’re an M.D. or a D.O. you can join the conversation inside Sermo.

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