Cancer, Alzheimer's databases to aid research

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Amid a so-called "arms race" to provide personalized treatments based on genetic research, the National Cancer Institute is making one of the largest cancer databases public.

Separately, the Alzheimer's Association has announced a collaboration that includes data on whole genome sequences of 800 patients and family members. Both efforts will make reams of data available to researchers working on new treatments.

The cancer database is based on NCI work in which researchers sequenced 60 cancer cell lines from various parts of the body, creating an extensive list of cancer-specific variations. They then used an algorithm to predict the sensitivity of cells with cancer-specific variants to 103 anti-cancer drugs approved by the FDA and an additional 207 investigational new drugs, according to the American Association for Cancer Research. Their study was published at Cancer Research.

The database could be used, for instance, to determine whether the chemotherapy drug Cisplatin is associated with specific genetic mutations, reports Reuters. The newer cancer drugs are targeted treatments, it explains, which require patients to be tested for specific genetic mutations to determine whether that drug would be beneficial for them.

The Alzheimer's collaboration, meanwhile, draws support from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, established by Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, and Anne Wojcicki, the co-founder of 23andMe, a personal genetics company.

Results from the genomic big data project will be shared with researchers through the Global Alzheimer's Association Interactive Network, reports the Boston Business Journal.

There's been a rash of partnerships announced in recent months among healthcare organizations and tech companies as they seek to create technology to manage and comb the massive data sets produced in genomic research. Among the latest: Oregon Health & Science University and Intel.

And among the massive data projects in the works: England plans a cancer database tracking all 350,000 new tumors detected each year as well as 11 million historical records going back as far as 30 years.

Meanwhile, President Obama has announced plans for a major initiative to map the brain, a massive project that has been likened to the Human Genome Project. That effort is expected to provide insights into prevention and treatment of diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

To learn more:
- read the Reuters story
- find the announcement
- check out the Journal article

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