World’s biggest cancer database uses weather forecasting technology

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Weather forecasting technology used in world's biggest cancer database CanSAR, a new cancer database developed by the Institute of Cancer Research, will revolutionise cancer research using weather forecasting technology to predict treatments of the future. It contains 1.7 billion experimental results – condensing more data than the Hubble telescope could generate after 1 million years of use. 

“It can spot opportunities for future treatments that no human eye could be expected to see”


Researchers across the world will be able to use the database to access unprecedented amounts of multidisciplinary, international data from patients and clinical trials as well as genetic, biochemical and pharmacological research.  Artificial intelligence software, similarly used by meteorologists to predict the weather, will predict which potential drugs are likely to work in which circumstances.

Dr Bissan Al-Lazikani, Team Leader in Computational Biology and Chemogenomics at the Institute of Cancer Research, said: “The database is capable of extraordinarily complex virtual experiments drawing on information from patients, genetics, chemistry and other laboratory research. It can spot opportunities for future cancer treatments that no human eye could be expected to see.”

The system will have double the capacity of it’s beta version, designed to accommodate the growing wealth of data generated by new technologies and DNA sequencing.  The beta version, whilst smaller, had 26,000 unique users from more than 70 countries in the world, demonstrating the real need for a collaborative system allowing researchers up-to-date access to international data.

CanSAR now contains more than eight million experimentally derived measurements, nearly one million biologically active chemical compounds and data from over a thousand cancer cell lines. It also contains drug target information from the human genome and model organisms. Research that had previously taken months to complete will now take only minutes.

Nell Barrie, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, said; “Research into cancer relies on international collaboration and the CanSAR database makes it easy for scientists around the world to tap into huge amounts of information – from the lab and the clinic – to fuel new discoveries. The clues we need to tackle cancer are hidden in data like this and by making it freely available we can boost our progress and make breakthroughs sooner.”


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