Aug. 14, 2009 | While its name may not be familiar to the average person, the caBIG initiative is poised to affect the health care of cancer patients around the world.
Developed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health, the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG) is a network connecting cancer and biomedical researchers. That may sound like a simple concept, but developing tools to link the work of researchers around the world is a complex undertaking requiring input from a host of scientists and information technology professionals — including several at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
The UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute was recognized as a world leader in the development and use of caBIG technologies at the caBIG Annual Meeting on July 20-22 in Washington, D.C., which drew about 1,400 attendees.
As one of only seven cancer centers honored at the meeting, the Cancer Institute received the NCI’s Delivering Results Award designated for a project that addresses specific research questions using caBIG applications, caGrid and data available for sharing.
“The NCI recognized a select number of institutions, and we were fortunate to be chosen. Our work with caBIG has received very positive response from the NCI and our colleagues at other cancer centers,” said Cheryl Lane, director of research and development in the UAMS Department of Information Technology.
Accepting the award on behalf of the Cancer Institute were Peter Emanuel, M.D., Cancer Institute director; Laura Hutchins, M.D., director of the Division of Hematology/Oncology; Thomas Kieber-Emmons, Ph.D., professor of pathology; Umit Topaloglu, Ph.D., IT technical project manager; Gail Douglas, IT clinical project leader; and Cheryl Lane, IT director of Research and Development .
The award was presented by John E. Niederhuber, M.D., NCI director, and Kenneth H. Buetow, Ph.D., associate director for biomedical informatics and information technology at NCI.
In addition to the award, the UAMS contingent presented a 90-minute presentation to about 300 attendees on their successful deployment of multiple caBIG tools for clinical research, and Hutchins participated in a teleconference to researchers and IT professionals at six locations in India.
“We are one of the most successful cancer centers in the country in terms of the number of applications we have deployed and the progress we have made in adapting them to our specific needs,” Lane said.
caBIG applications are developed by numerous institutions in an open source format, making them available at no cost to other institutions to build upon and adapt to their own uses.
Among the applications that UAMS has launched are the Patient Registry and the Clinical Trial Data Management System, two programs that work together to manage information about clinical trials and share that information with other researchers. The UAMS-developed Trial Search acts as a Web portal for all clinical trials at the university.
The caTissue application was implemented in the UAMS Tissue Bank earlier this year to track tissue samples.
Among the most highly sought after applications developed by the UAMS team is a dashboard that makes all caBIG programs visible and accessible in one location.
“Other cancer centers are particularly interested in learning about the dashboard and adapting it for their caBIG programs,” Lane said.
Next up for the UAMS team is adapting the open source Patient Study Calendar for use at the university. When fully functional, the calendar will provide patients in clinical trials with a timeline and breakdown of procedures involved in the trial. It also will link to a budgeting tool that assists UAMS faculty and staff in determining the cost per patient of clinical trials.