The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has received a National Cancer Institute grant of $5 million over the next 5 years to lead a massive effort to integrate the data from all experimental models across all types of cancer. The Web-based repository is an important step in moving the fight against cancer toward precision medicine.
The goal is to accelerate cancer research to improve the way we diagnose, treat, and conduct further research on the disease. The resulting database, called the Oncology Models Forum, will be accessible to researchers through the National Institutes of Health, to encourage scientists to use existing validated cancer models, rather than creating new ones.
“There are incredible new discoveries happening in cancer research today, such as detecting cancer cells and DNA in the bloodstream, and even harnessing the immune system to fight cancers,” said Atul Butte, MD, PhD, Director of the Institute for Computational Health Sciences at UCSF and principal investigator for the grant. “These research methodologies generate enormous amounts of data that can and should be harnessed by researchers and engineers to yield new drugs and diagnostics.”
The project aims to create an online cache of molecular data that oncologists and cancer researchers could use to validate the current models that best translate to humans, make predictions about the disease, and move toward a collaborative, precision medicine approach to cancer. Ultimately, Dr. Butte said, the effort also has the potential to create computer-based cancer models that greatly reduce the need for using animals in research. ■