Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cancer data in the 'cloud' could lead to more effective treatment

Date:
November 6, 2012
Source:
Johns Hopkins
Summary:
Researchers are using cloud technology to collect information from thousands of cancer cell samples. The goal is to help doctors better predict how a patient’s illness will progress and what type of treatment will be most effective.

Storing music and photos on distant computers via "cloud" technology is nothing new. But Johns Hopkins researchers are now using this tactic to collect detailed information from thousands of cancer cell samples. The goal is to help doctors make better predictions about how a patient's illness will progress and what type of treatment will be most effective.

The project, supported by a new $3.75 million National Cancer Institute grant, was launched because researchers now realize that cancer cells affecting the same type of tissue can behave differently in different patients. Prostate cancers may grow rapidly in one patient, but expand at a glacial pace in another. A drug that kills a tumor in one patient may be useless or even harmful in the next patient.

To help doctors prepare a more personalized medical prognosis and treatment plan, Johns Hopkins has assembled experts in cancer and engineering, led by Denis Wirtz, associate director of the university's Institute for NanoBioTechnology. The team has begun characterizing and storing cancer data collected through a process called high-throughput cell phenotyping.

"We use scanning microscopy to take pictures of the size and shape of cancer cells," said Wirtz, who also directs the Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences-Oncology Center. "We also extract information about what is happening inside the cells and at the genetic level. We make notes of the age and gender of the patient and any treatment received. Looked at as a whole, this information can help us identify a 'signature' for a certain type of cancer.

That gives us a better idea of how it spreads and how it responds to certain drugs." He added, "The long-range goal is to make this data available through the Internet to physicians who are diagnosing and treating cancer patients around the world."

Wirtz, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the university's Whiting School of Engineering, has been working with School of Medicine researchers Ralph Hruban and Anirban Maitra to begin the database with material from the files of thousands of cancer patients who have been evaluated and treated at Johns Hopkins. The patients' personal information has been deleted, but the remaining medical case data allows the researchers to trace the course of the disease from initial testing through treatment and outcome.

"This technology may provide a way to centralize specimen data, images and analysis in a way that hasn't been done before," said Maitra, a professor of pathology and oncology, "and we'll be using the information now to find better ways to treat disease."

The Johns Hopkins team will soon collect similar data from other major U.S. cancer research centers that are also supported by the National Institutes of Health. The initial focus will be pancreatic cancer, which is particularly aggressive and lethal.

"We may be able to correlate DNA changes that occur in individual pancreatic cancer cells with the appearance of these cells at the cellular level," said Hruban, a professor of pathology and oncology and director of the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center. "The potential for this approach to provide insight into the fundamental biology of pancreatic cancer is significant, as are the potential clinical applications in predicting a patient's prognosis and in guiding therapy."

Other types of the disease, including breast and prostate cancer, will be addressed in the near future. Early data is being stored on computers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory under an arrangement funded by the NIH.

According to Wirtz, the details recorded in the online database will differ from those produced in traditional biopsy evaluations. Typically, information about a patient's disease is obtained by averaging the results from trillions of cells that have been blended together.

With the new scanning system, however, the Johns Hopkins researchers will obtain views of individual cells retrieved from individual patients, even from different parts of the same organ.

This ability to examine single cells is important, Wirtz said, because scientists have discovered that even cells that possess the identical genetic makeup can vary in other small ways that affect the behavior of cancer. For example, these tiny variations in genetically identical cells can cause some to be vulnerable to a particular cancer drug.

"We've come to realize that it is the heterogeneity -- the diversity of cells that have different characteristics -- that is important in evaluating a cancer case," Wirtz said. "In the end, what matters is the cell properties. That's what we measure."

Researchers will begin their studies on clinical samples collected at Johns Hopkins to determine how well the technology works and validate it's potential before it can be used to aid clinical decision-making.

The software and hardware used in the high-throughput cell phenotyping process is protected by patents obtained through the Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer office. The $3.75 million National Cancer Institute grant (CA174388) will be disbursed to the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology over a five-year period. The funds were allocated through the National Institutes of Health's Common Fund Single Cell Analysis Program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins. "Cancer data in the 'cloud' could lead to more effective treatment." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121106143521.htm>.
Johns Hopkins. (2012, November 6). Cancer data in the 'cloud' could lead to more effective treatment. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121106143521.htm
Johns Hopkins. "Cancer data in the 'cloud' could lead to more effective treatment." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121106143521.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is expected to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of the effort to contain Ebola's spread. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama Orders Military Response to Ebola

Obama Orders Military Response to Ebola

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Calling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a potential threat to global security, President Barack Obama is ordering 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the stricken region amid worries that the outbreak is spiraling out of control. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN: 20,000 Could Be Infected With Ebola by Year End

UN: 20,000 Could Be Infected With Ebola by Year End

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Nearly $1.0 billion dollars is needed to fight the Ebola outbreak raging in west Africa, the United Nations say, warning that 20,000 could be infected by year end. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Ebola Outbreak Threat to Global Security

Obama: Ebola Outbreak Threat to Global Security

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is ordering U.S. military personnel to West Africa to deal with the Ebola outbreak, which is he calls a potential threat to global security. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins