caBIG: sharing data to save lives

April 9th, 2008 by dwentworth

The Scientist has a not-to-be-missed piece this month on the National Cancer Institute’s caBIG, the Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid. The article, Heading for the BIG Time (free registration required), was written by caBIG founder Kenneth Buetow, and serves as an excellent introduction to the reasons why we need a collaborative infrastructure for knowledge sharing in science — one that works, to use Buetow’s phrase, as a “smart World Wide Web” for research.

“From my position as a senior cancer researcher at the NCI, groundbreaking observations and insights in biomedicine are accumulating at a dizzying rate. However, from the perspective of the approximately 1.4 million US patients who will hear their physicians say, ‘You have cancer,’ progress is unacceptably slow,” explains Buetow. “Something needed to be done to expedite the transformation of scientific findings into clinical solutions.”

That’s a daunting challenge, says Buetow, especially given the nature of the disease and the way research is currently done. “Cancer is an immensely complex disease, and in order to get a sense of the big picture, scientists need to combine observations from genomics, proteomics, pathology, imaging and clinical trials,” he says. “There was, however, no systematic way to do this.”

The caBIG solution: figuring out what kinds of data could be shared, and then connecting more than 60 NCI centers of cancer research using a strategy of “standards-based interoperability,” where information is shared and accessed using common standards and tools. The results so far are promising: the caBIG community is growing, and people are already adding new tools that increase the utility of the shared data.

We’re proud to have been a part of the NCI’s ongoing discussions about intellectual property and data sharing recently, as well. John Wilbanks was a closing panelist at the most recent Data Sharing and Intellectual Capital meeting of the Grid. We look forward to continuing – and deepening – our relationship with the Grid over the coming months.

2 Responses

  1. Tom Caruso, on June 17th, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    caBIG is the biggest effort to bring bioinformatics resources together with clinical resources across the country. I’m guessing it will have a major impact on biomedical informatics, but caBIG does have its skeptics. What are the primary issues surrounding caBIG adoption by a wide range of cancer researchers (not just the cancer centers, which I assume NCI will be pushing to implement caBIG)?

  2. Science Commons » Blog Archive » GSK, caBIG give away cancer data to speed research, on June 25th, 2008 at 11:13 am

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