Vice President Biden Unveils New Open-Access Database to Improve Cancer Research

As part of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, Vice President Joe Biden recently announced the Genomic Data Commons (GDC), a next-generation, open-access cancer database that provides data access, data analysis, and data sharing for cancer research.

The database launched with raw genomic and clinical data from National Cancer Institute (NCI) initiatives, such as the Cancer Genome Atlas and the TARGET (Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments) program. The GDC contains patient information, including which treatments were used and how patients responded, from more than 14,000 patients. As more data are added, the hope is that the GDC will “form the basis for a comprehensive knowledge system for cancer … and would become an important resource for generating potentially actionable and life-changing information that ultimately could be used by doctors and their patients,” according to a news release from NCI.

To support broader data sharing, the GDC is capable of accepting/or has the functionality to accept submissions of cancer genomic and clinical data from researchers around the world, allowing those researchers to use the database’s analytic methods to compare their findings with other data in the GDC.

“Increasing the pool of researchers who can access data and decreasing the time it takes for them to review and find new patterns in that data is critical to speeding up development of life-saving treatments for patients,” said Vice President Biden.

“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,” NCI Acting Director Douglas Lowy, MD, said in a press release from the agency. “Ultimately, the GDC will accelerate our efforts in precision medicine.”

The database is accessible through an NCI portal and is interactive and searchable by centralized and standardized data on a unified and interoperable platform. The University of Chicago is housing and managing the database for NCI. Funding for the GDC falls under the $70 million allocated to NCI under the Precision Medicine Initiative.

Sources: The Washington Post, June 6, 2016; University of Chicago News, June 6, 2016; National Institutes of Health news release, June 6, 2016.