The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has become home to The Cancer Imaging Archive of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) with the transfer to UAMS of more than 40 terabytes of data from the archive’s former home at Washington University in St. Louis.
“Through the archive, UAMS has important linkages to all of the NCI-designated cancer centers in the country and to many other cancer centers around the world,” said College of Medicine Dean Pope L. Moseley, M.D. “This puts UAMS and our expertise in biomedical informatics right at the center of cancer imaging research.”
Cancer researchers can use the archive’s data to develop new analysis techniques to advance scientific understanding of cancer, and educators can use it as a teaching tool to introduce students to medical imaging technology and types of cancer. The public can access the archive and see how cancer appears in diagnostic images as well as learn about the instruments physicians use to diagnose cancer and measure the success of treatment.
The archive moved to UAMS on Oct. 1 with Fred Prior, Ph.D., when he left his previous position at Washington University to chair the newly established Department of Biomedical Informatics in the UAMS College of Medicine.
Biomedical informatics uses computers rather than traditional laboratories to extract knowledge from large sets of data. The department develops computational tools to assess and manage medical and public health information for patient care and research programs. Research using the archive has produced about 250 academic papers in recent years.
“The recruitment of Dr. Fred Prior as the chair of the new Department of Biomedical Informatics is a major step forward for UAMS and the College of Medicine,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D. “Having this database on campus will highlight the important work our researchers are engaged in.”
Peter Emanuel, M.D., director of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, said Prior’s research experience as a cancer imaging expert is equally important to the Cancer Institute.
“Imaging-based cancer research is about to take a quantum leap forward and Dr. Prior is right on the leading edge of this,” Emanuel said. “The data housing and database that he has transferred here along with his NCI grant will be a vital asset to the Cancer Institute and will give us instant credibility to the rest of the nation’s cancer researchers as we expand on this database into the future.”
An important area of research that makes intensive use of The Cancer Imaging Archive is computer -based image analysis or radiomics.
“For instance, we are extracting tens of thousands of data points from one CT scan, and then analyzing these image features to identify disease signatures,” Prior said. “We are comparing genomic feature sets with the imaging feature sets to try to understand how to identify different disease subtypes that may require different therapies.”
That comparative analysis using biomedical informatics has the potential to greatly speed up the process of choosing the best course of treatment forsomeone with cancer and improving his or her prognosis.