August 7, 2018

Data integration for the future of precision oncology

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Big data are ushering in a new era of individualized cancer care and prevention, but not without conceptual and practical challenges. Canadian advances in genomics will be made by or limited by bioinformatics analytical capacity as well as the ability to store and analyze data in new and more sophisticated ways.

To help realize the potential of genomics research in cancer, the Canadian Data Integration Centre (CDIC) platform, led by OICR, offers third generation bioinformatics and genomics tools to support both functional and clinical genomics research. CDIC is the largest academic cancer informatics program in the country – offering customizable, client-oriented access services for data challenges across diverse research areas.

Dr. Philip Awadalla

“The Canadian Data Integration Centre’s broad scope of services and expertise provide the full breadth of support necessary to help researchers in their work,” says Dr. Philip Awadalla, Principal Investigator of CDIC and Director of Computational Biology at OICR.

CDIC has recently worked with researchers from Dr. John Dick’s lab (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre) and Dr. Liran Shlush’s lab (Weizmann Institute of Science) to find small traces of acute myeloid leukemia which were previously thought to be undetectable. CDIC worked in partnership with the research team to design the study and the computational tools needed to mine hundreds of patient samples for rare traces of the disease.

“The Canadian Data Integration Centre’s broad scope of services and expertise provide the full breadth of support necessary to help researchers in their work” – Dr. Philip Awadalla

Backed by the informatics and bio-computing core at CDIC, the research team confidently identified traces of leukemia from patient samples up to 10 years before diagnosis. They showed it’s possible to use a blood sample to identify those at high risk for developing AML, long before the disease becomes aggressive.

“The approach that we took required all hands on deck and CDIC was instrumental in bringing contributors together from different backgrounds – in both data generation and informatics,”- Dr. Philip Awadalla

In addition to their bespoke research services, CDIC supports long-term big data research projects such as the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project (CPTP). CDIC helps host CPTP’s dataset, which includes more than 150,000 DNA-containing biosamples, and exploit these data to investigate disease trends across Canada.

With its renewed support from Genome Canada, announced in January 2018, CDIC will continue extending its support to the scientific community over the next five years – equipping researchers and industry clients alike with state-of-the-art software and analytical tools to interrogate the underlying causes of complex diseases.

For more information about CDIC or to work with CDIC researchers, visit genome-cdic.ca