Children benefit from cancer data

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Data aids children's cancer treatment

Photo: Thinkstock

Source: SMH – UTS Brink

In an unassuming office on Broadway in Sydney, the way in which childhood  cancer is understood and treated is being revolutionised. The benefits are being  felt by clinicians and patients.

The revolution is thanks to Director of the Knowledge Infrastructure  Laboratory (KIL) at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) Dr Paul Kennedy,  and his colleagues and students. The researcher and academic is combining data  mining with his passion for the health and the happiness of children with  cancer.

“We’re trying to better understand how to treat children who have several  cancers: leukemia is one, neuroblastoma is another and rhabdomyosarcoma – a  cancer that originates in the cells that develop into skeletal muscle – is the  third,” he says.

As part of his work, Dr Kennedy is analysing more than 40,000 genetic  attributes, including gene activity and DNA sequence variations, identified in  tumours from over 200 cancer patients to find trends in the biology that explain  how the tumours are growing. The data is then used to predict treatment relapse  with an aim to inform the clinician’s decisions during patient management.

“Data and graphs are not necessarily very helpful in directing individual  patient treatment, so we need to find out how clinicians make their decisions  and what kind of information is useful for them. We want to tailor the  predictions to make them actionable for a particular patient.”

Dr Kennedy’s colleague, Associate Professor at the Children’s Hospital at  Westmead, Dr Daniel Catchpoole, is responsible for converting the data into  these more actionable items.

“I need to basically make this complex information accessible to clinicians  and to the real domain to open up the opportunity for clinicians to access this  complex data to learn how to best treat their patient,” Dr Catchpoole says.

He believes the ability to understand large amounts of complex data is  essential in determining the prognosis of cancer patients.

“What we are seeing in the last couple of years is the need, not just the  value, but the need for people with understandings of complex data and  computational programs.” Read more


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The ONA Editor curates oncology news, views and reviews from Australia and around the world for our readers. In aggregated content, original sources will be acknowledged in the article footer.

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