U of Delaware, George Washington U team up with NASA to advance precision oncology research

A team of researchers from Washington, D.C.-based George Washington University, Newark-based University of Delaware, the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory are developing a portal of information related to precision oncology.

Academic researchers have released numerous studies linking select genetic biomarkers to cancer incidence and treatment. However, these findings are siloed in various databases. Through a research collaboration, the team plans to leverage technologies like text mining to bring this information together in a central location.

Vijay Shanker, PhD, a professor of computer and information sciences at the University of Delaware and a collaborator on the project, said he will use text mining programs to parse through millions of research papers. He said the programs can analyze research papers to determine which text is relevant to the precision oncology project and will organize these sections in a useful format.

The goal of the project is to develop a central portal through which physicians can access information about specific biomarkers and treatment outcomes related to cancer. Eventually, the researchers hope physicians will be able to use this data to inform patient treatment decisions.

"For example, this information could be used to predict how mutations might affect drug response, an important aspect of personalized medicine," Dr. Shanker said.

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