Scientists follow 'Facebook' strategy to corral cancer Big Data

For all their speedy sequencing of genomes, scientists have yet to figure out what all the DNA data mean about diseases, holding back the information from being used in patient treatment. With this in mind, University of California Santa Cruz researchers have embarked on a project to build a database for storing analyzed information pulled from data on sequenced cancer genomes.

As the university wrote, the database, dubbed the Biomedical Evidence Graph, will feature a structure like Facebook's ($FB) social graph to allow rapid access to information from multiple interrelated datasets. Its database will also serve as a platform on which multiple analysis tools and apps will run, giving researchers the means to derive knowledge from vast Big Data on cancer genomes.

The NIH has kicked in a $3.5 million grant to fuel development of the database, which researchers expect to house in the San Diego Supercomputer Center in La Jolla, CA. The center already hosts the Cancer Genomics Hub, which is a UCSC-built repository of lower-level DNA sequencing and alignment data from the NIH's Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) program.   

The government grant is part of the NIH's efforts to begin taking data from the massive TCGA endeavor and gain useful insights about cancer genetics which could point to which drugs work best of certain patients based on the molecular profiles of their tumors and other applications.

"Our analyses can reveal connections between different tumor samples based on their molecular profiles, and the natural way to represent that in a database is with the graph structures used for Facebook and other social networks," Joshua Stuart, an associate professor of biomolecular engineering at UCSC's Baskin School of Engineering, said in the university's article.

- here's the UCSC report