Experts tip bioinformatics collaborations to improve breast cancer care

The growing pool of genomics data and bioinformatics capabilities presents new opportunities to improve outcomes for cancer patients. Yet without coordinated, multidisciplinary collaborations, the industry risks failing to take full advantage, researchers warned this week.

Writing in the journal Breast Cancer Research, a team of 100 scientists, clinicians and healthcare professionals outlined the knowledge gaps that could slow breakthroughs--and suggested ways to overcome the obstacles. Bioinformatics and genomics feature prominently throughout the paper, with the researchers talking up their potential, but also pointing out potential pitfalls.

In their list of strategies to fill current gaps in knowledge, the researchers highlight the need to establish a collaborative infrastructure. "This requires improved access to appropriate, well-annotated clinical material including longitudinal sample collection with expert bioinformatics support and data sharing," the researchers wrote. Biopharma is viewed as a potential obstacle to achieving this goal, with the authors noting companies need convincing of the merits of collecting tissues before, during and after clinical trials.

The paper envisages an integrated drug discovery and development model, in which clinical data feeds into omic profiles and bioinformatics. These, in turn, support computational models that enable the stratification of patients for trials and treatment. Siloing of data is one obstacle to the smooth running of the model, but poorly integrated expertise is also a problem. With data sets becoming ever more complex, the authors call for much better integration of computer science, database engineering, data analytics and visualization, hardware and software engineering within biological research.

- read the paper
- view the accompanying release
- check out the Guardian's take