Biomedical Informatics Receives $3.2 Million from NCI to Study Tumor Makeup

Stony Brook Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Informatics has received a five-year $3.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop a suite of informatics tools that will enable basic researchers to study tumors — including their structures, genetics and protein expression patterns. The project will involve massive biomedical quantitative analyses of tumors to better understand how and why they grow.

Biomedical Informatics is a growing field that uses computer technology to collect and analyze biological data. The field also includes imaging informatics, which helps the analysis of clinical and biological imagery to better understand disease mechanisms, diagnose disease and target therapy. Stony Brook established its Department of Biomedical Informatics in 2013.

“Cancer is a disease that involves complex interactions between cancer cells and tissues,” said Joel Saltz, MD, PhD, the Cherith Chair of Biomedical Informatics. “To develop effective diagnostic and treatment methods for cancer, we need to understand these complex patterns of interaction. Our project should uncover new leads to the complex disease that is cancer.”

Dr. Saltz, who is also an affiliated faculty member with the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University, explained that the informatics platform will play an essential role in supporting the studies of basic researchers on campus investigating tumor initiation, development, heterogeneity, invasion and metastasis. These tools will allow quantitative analyses of the interplay between morphology and spatially mapped genetics and molecular data, and it will be used in studies to predict outcome and response to treatment in clinical trials.

The software and methods will enable researchers to assemble and visualize detailed, multi-scale descriptions of tissue morphologic changes in cancer originating from a wide range of microscopy instruments. This process will make it possible to efficiently manage microscopy imaging data on multiple scales to identify and analyze features across individuals and cohorts.

The project is a collaborative effort of physicians and scientists from four institutions under the leadership of Dr. Saltz. These include researchers from Stony Brook University in the Departments of Biomedical Informatics, Applied Informatics and Computer Science, and investigators at Emory University, Yale University and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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