In their efforts to make personalized medicine a reality, university hospital systems are establishing databases that integrate 'omics data and clinical information. In October, the Georgetown University Medical Center's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center made its bioinformatic contribution to this trend by launching the Georgetown Database of Cancer, which is intended to be a one-stop shop for both researchers and physicians. The new database will serve as a repository for all types of clinical and genetic cancer data, and will be easily accessible through a single Web portal.
"At this stage, all of these new 'omics databases that incorporate clinical information are basically establishing the rules of the game. We're trying to understand how to combine the information so that we can use it most effectively," says Louis Weiner, director of Lombardi. "But what's special about G-DOC, for us, is that we're connecting the molecular information to conventional clinical information, including outcomes of therapy, surgery, and other clinically relevant endpoints, so that we can hopefully tie the information that we're analyzing directly to outcomes that matter to people."
Information from 200 breast cancer patients — including genomic, proteomic, metabolomic, methylomic, and transcriptomic data, detailed clinical treatment and outcome information, and patient-supplied family history, lifestyle, and potential risk factor information — has already been entered into the G-DOC system. Georgetown researchers can now use all of that information to isolate predictive biomarkers that could help physicians determine which patients will respond to Tamoxifen, and which individuals are better suited for alternative treatments.
Weiner says that he expects the underlying principle behind the G-DOC model to be a key factor in the emergence of personalized medicine going forward. "I think databases like this will be an important strategy that will allow us to more effectively incorporate clinical and molecular targets in cancer research and research into other diseases as well as into clinical management of all those diseases," Weiner says. "Basically, the next decade or so will involve a giant sifting process whereby we analyze all the endpoints we can think of in order to prioritize them for further evaluation."