– Healthcare organizations are increasingly looking to expand their precision medicine and genomics research efforts, with two recent partnerships reflecting the industry’s aim to enhance these areas of care.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded a five-year, $3.6 million contract to Geisinger to study the role of genetic variation in cancer. Researchers from Geisinger and NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) will analyze genetic data from Geisinger’s MyCode Community Health Initiative, a precision medicine project with more than 276,000 consented participants.
The investigative team will use a genome-first approach, analyzing data from MyCode participants to identify specific gene variants and then linking that information to the participants’ EHRs. This will allow researchers to determine the impact of these gene variants on cancer risk.
The size and scope of the MyCode project offers an opportunity to explore the relationship between multiple genes and cancers to develop a better understanding of genetic cancer risk in a large clinical population. This will expand the list of genes that can be used to guide genetic cancer screening, improving care for patients and families.
“This partnership allows Geisinger and NCI investigators to combine our expertise in cancer diagnosis, epidemiology, cancer biology, and genetics,” said David J. Carey, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Molecular and Functional Genomics at Geisinger and a MyCode principal investigator.
“The data available through MyCode provides us with a unique opportunity to investigate the genetic risk of cancer in a large regional population.”
Since 2007, MyCode has enrolled more than 276,000 participants in Pennsylvania. With DNA sequence and health data currently available on nearly 175,000 of these participants, MyCode is one of the largest studies of its kind in the world.
Elsewhere in the healthcare sector, Shriners Hospitals for Children and Georgia Institute of Technology are expanding their collaboration to include the fields of precision medicine and big data analysis and interpretation in 2021.
The new initiative will create pilot research projects and tools that align with the needs and aims of Shriners Hospitals’ network of clinicians to enable state-of-the-art clinical research and facilitate clinical practice.
The seed grants will support Georgia Tech faculty and research associates working directly with Shriners Hospitals for Children physicians and surgeons. The overall goal remains to improve the lives of children treated at Shriners Hospitals.
“This particular round of research is all about going further with information and data, and making it accessible for research and patient care,” said Leanne West, chief engineer of pediatric technologies at GIT.
“With the unique data from Shriners Hospitals and GIT’s expertise in data analytics, we’re going to be able to provide more specific information for diagnosis and treatment of future Shriners Hospitals for Children patients.”
The initial seed grant opportunity supported by Shriners Hospitals inspired investigator partners to conceptualize seven innovative clinical research projects.
“These seven projects represent the breadth of care provided at Shriners Hospitals, and they are very focused on the specific research needs for each of the patient populations,” said Coleman Hilton, research informatics manager at Shriners Hospitals for Children, who is responsible for addressing resource needs from the teams.
The teams, awarded two-year seed grants by Shriners Hospitals of either $50,000 or $150,000, are led by principal investigators from each institution. Georgia Tech researchers have worked with Shriners Hospitals to establish a new Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) prototype as the backend server for research projects.
“We want to enable interoperable clinical data management across all Shriners Hospitals locations,” said May Dongmei Wang, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.
“We’ll assist four Shriners Hospitals locations to develop three FHIR applications to showcase the acceleration of the clinical informatics pipeline from idea, to data, to insights, using FHIR.”
The initiative has the potential to improve the lives of children around the world going forward.
“This program will allow us to capture, access, share, and analyze data, including diagnostics, radiographic images, and genomics in a way that is not currently available in existing Shriners Hospitals for Children patient registries and research databases,” said Marc Lalande, vice president of Shriners Hospitals for Children research programs.
“The infrastructure that will be developed will not only enhance our clinical research capabilities, but also advance our clinical practices.”
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