The way Joe Biden tells it, the fight against cancer is in great measure a big data problem.
In remarks at an oncology convention in Chicago this week, the vice president delivered a message of open data and interdisciplinary collaboration as keys in the search for better cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Biden took the occasion to announce the public availability of the Genomic Data Commons, a repository of the anonymized genomic and clinical data of some 12,000 cancer patients that will open the door for researchers to analyze a broad collection of tumor genome sequences.
“It is our hope that Genomic Data Commons will prove pivotal in advancing precision medicine, where physicians attempt to tailor therapies to specific characteristics from a particular patient’s cancer,” Biden said. “Our aim and the aim of Genomic Data Commons is for researchers to have information at their fingertips about the relationship between abnormalities or mutations of genes and clinical outcomes.”
Biden’s announcement is the latest step forward in the so-called cancer moonshot initiative that he is spearheading, an effort to achieve a decade’s worth of progress in preventing, diagnosis and treating cancer within five years.
In some ways, that effort parallels other administration programs such as the ongoing work to free up government data, making it publicly available and putting it in searchable, standardized and machine-readable formats so that developers, researchers, entrepreneurs and others can glean new insights and develop novel applications around it.