Navigate Up
UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
For Journalists
Director
Telephone: 412-586-9777
Manager
Telephone: 412-623-4701 or 412-586-9773
Other Inquiries


UPMC’S ‘Big Data’ Technology Shows Promise in Breast Cancer Research

PITTSBURGH, June 19, 2013 – Only eight months into its $100 million, five-year enterprise analytics effort, UPMC and its research partners at the University of Pittsburgh are starting to see the potential of this “big data” technology for accelerating scientific discoveries and the promise of personalized medicine.

With the foundational architecture of UPMC’s new enterprise data warehouse in place, Pitt researchers recently were able to electronically integrate for the first time clinical and genomic information on 140 patients previously treated for breast cancer.  

“One of the first questions we asked was, ‘Is there a difference, a unique difference between pre-menopausal and post-menopausal breast cancer?’” said Adrian V. Lee, Ph.D., a renowned expert in the molecular and cellular biology of breast cancer and director of the Women’s Cancer Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and Magee-Womens Research Institute. “We are interested in this question from a research standpoint because we are moving toward personalized medicine, and personalized medicine is all about finding subgroups of patients who have a specific type of disease for which we could develop novel therapies.”

In this case, the researchers found intriguing molecular differences in the makeup of pre-menopausal vs. post-menopausal breast cancer. While understanding those differences will require more research, the findings eventually could provide a roadmap for developing targeted therapies, notes Dr. Lee.

This initial cancer question is just the start of UPMC’s and Pitt’s effort to mine massive amounts of data — clinical, genomic, proteomic, imaging and financial, to name a few — in the pursuit of smarter medicine. Traditionally, these data have resided in separate information systems, making it difficult, if not impossible, to integrate and analyze dozens of variables. “The integration of data, which is the goal of the enterprise data warehouse, allows us to ask questions that we just simply couldn’t ask before,” says Dr. Lee.

Having the foundation of the analytics system will now make it easier to explore other types of cancer and other diseases, he notes. And while the data warehouse started with only two types of  breast cancer “omic” data — gene expression and copy number variant data, measuring changes in the amount of DNA — many more will be added.

The breast cancer research was chosen as a test of the enterprise data warehouse because of the rich genomics data available on these 140 patients. Their de-identified information previously had been submitted as part of a federally funded project called The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), a multi-center effort to produce comprehensive genomic maps of the most common cancers. Pitt was the largest contributor of tissue to the TCGA.

UPMC in October announced that it was working with technology partners Oracle, IBM, Informatica and dbMotion to create an enterprise data warehouse that would foster personalized medicine. With the help of these companies, UPMC is installing the hardware and software needed to bring together data from more than 200 sources of information across UPMC, UPMC Health Plan and outside entities, including labs and pharmacies. When the first phase of the multi-year project is completed in the spring of 2014, many researchers, clinicians and administrators will have secure, real-time access to data and analytic tools that fit their particular interests and needs.

A video of Pitt researchers discussing how they recently were able to electronically integrate clinical and genomic information on 140 patients previously treated for breast cancer is available at YouTube.

Trademark: Oracle and Java are registered trademarks of Oracle and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com