BETHESDA, Md., June 6 (UPI) -- The National Institutes of Health announced Monday the creation of a unified data system to make it easier for doctors and researchers to share genomic and clinical data about cancer, cancer genomics and treatment of cancer.
The Genetic Data Commons is a two-petabyte collection of data being made freely available as part of the National Cancer Moonshot announced by President Barack Obama, with the intention of sending research into overdrive to cure cancer.
There are many different types of cancer, most of which are caused by mutations to genes or other genomic changes altering the function of cells, with specific gene indications affecting how aggressive a cancer is and what drugs are effective at slowing or stopping its spread.
Data in the GDC represents thousands of patients and cancers, which researchers hope will allow them to uncover common genetic indications and find better treatments, as well as use treatments in cases where they will be most effective.
"Of particular significance, the GDC will also house data from a number of newer NCI programs that will sequence the DNA of patients enrolled in NCI clinical trials," Dr. Louis Staudt, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute, said in a press release. "These datasets will lead to a much deeper understanding of which therapies are most effective for individual cancer patients. With each new addition, the GDC will evolve into a smarter, more comprehensive knowledge system that will foster important discoveries in cancer research and increase the success of cancer treatment for patients."
The GDC will support several genome-related projects within the NCI, including the Center for Cancer Genomics, Cancer Genome Atlas, Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments, and the Cancer Genome Characterization Initiative.
The researchers say the data will be "harmonized" using software algorithms to make information more accessible and usable to any researcher. The system, being built and maintained at the University of Chicago, is expected to continuously be improved as new data is added, and new methods of computational analysis come to light.
The creation of the GDC is a key part of Obama's $1 billion National Cancer Moonshot effort, as well as an outgrowth of the administration's precision medicine initiative, which is also based on analysis and study of large cohorts of patients.
"With the GDC, NCI has made a major commitment to maintaining long-term storage of cancer genomic data and providing researchers with free access to these data," said Dr. Douglas Lowy, acting director of the NCI. "Importantly, the explanatory power of data in the GDC will grow over time as data from more patients are included, and ultimately the GDC will accelerate our efforts in precision medicine."