There’s a treasure trove of data locked away in medical records and scientific studies that, if liberated and used appropriately, could help to improve cancer care.
Big data is not a new concept – it’s actually been changing the face of medicine for years. The best known example is the Human Genome Project. Personally, my first involvement with big data and health came with the Gene Therapy Patient Tracking System (GTPTS) and the Genetic Modification Clinical Research Information System (GeMCRIS). These tools help scientists collect, analyze, and make sense of research in human genetics.
One of the major challenges we faced in building these tools was how to integrate data from very different sources. For example, many systems where information is stored were built in a way that doesn’t allow them to ‘talk’ to each other. This integration continues to be a big challenge with big data.
What is exciting is that we are discovering ways to make it possible to integrate a vast collection of information. Big data really does have the potential to change everything. As exciting as this field is, it’s important to understand what big data can and can’t do in cancer research and treatment.