caBIG - Celebrating Successes, Looking Ahead
Today I was privileged to open the annual meeting of the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG), a remarkable initiative that is linking cancer communities with the information and tools they need.
It's hard to believe, but since caBIG's creation, the initiative has already attracted more than 600 individual contributors - including 8 patient advocates - and launched over 24 new products and bioinformatics tools along with multiple datasets. (For a list of caBIG contributors and their first-generation tools, see the program's Web site at http://cabig.nci.nih.gov.)
In the March 15 special issue of the NCI Cancer Bulletin about the NCI-designated Cancer Centers, I noted how impressed I've been with the Centers' eagerness to work closely with NCI on caBIG. Most of the Cancer Centers are taking part in the development of a clinical research component of caBIG, which I believe will be a revolutionary tool in accelerating the pace and efficiency of cancer research. We truly couldn't do it without them.
Nearly every facet of NCI's strategic plan for 2015 is predicated on the potential of caBIG. Indeed, caBIG will ultimately become the "World Wide Web of cancer research" and is beginning to link individuals and institutions in ways that will allow them to more rapidly understand the causes of cancer and develop better ways to prevent, detect early, and treat the disease.
caBIG has already become a reality in the cancer research enterprise. Importantly, the first and subsequent generations of caBIG component tools - which range from basic research to personalized molecular medicine and patient decision making - are being developed in an integrated and fully interoperable way, all based on a common language or standard.
In addition, caBIG is providing cancer researchers with easy access to important, previously unavailable, or difficult-to-obtain data, such as the caARRAY data repository tool that allows online submission of microarray data (NCI Cancer Bulletin, February 15). This has already generated enormous interest among investigators nationwide who will use it to submit their microarray data for use by their peers in the cancer community. We expect that at least seven additional datasets will be posted on caBIG's Web site by December 2005, and that the number of new datasets posted will increase rapidly each year thereafter.
Another important objective for caBIG is to accelerate the validation of promising new interventions through more rapid and better designed clinical trials. Tools designed to meet the diverse clinical trials management needs of the Cancer Center community will facilitate activities such as adverse events reporting, laboratory data exchange, and regulatory reporting. caBIG is paving the way for comprehensive clinical trials improvement over the longer term through its clinical research data exchange standards so that studies can be designed, conducted, managed, and reported more efficiently.
Cancer patients, particularly those with the most serious cancers, will almost certainly benefit from this expanded clinical trial activity because effective new therapies will likely be brought to the marketplace sooner.
Without question, caBIG's most important accomplishments and contributions still lie in the future. However, the significant accomplishments during the past year are a strong indicator that caBIG truly will revolutionize cancer research and care in the relatively near future.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach