Guest Update by Dr. Ken Buetow
With caBIG, the Cancer Community Goes "Interoperable"
The ability to connect people, organizations, and data through information technology is critical to fulfilling NCI's mission and to taking advantage of the research opportunities offered by 21st century science. Launched in 2004, the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG) was designed to be an information network that would allow the cancer research community to share data and knowledge and, in so doing, accelerate the discovery of new approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Earlier this year, the 3-year pilot phase of caBIG was successfully completed. That success was marked by the achievement of several important goals, most notably the participation of more than 1,000 individuals from over 190 organizations, and its use in several potentially high-impact research projects.
During the pilot phase, we delivered more than 300 software components, including over 40 end-user applications, such as caArray and caTissue, and a wide range of infrastructure components, such as data standards and toolkits, like caCORE. We also launched caGrid, the data transmission network through which research organizations can connect and share their data.
Now caBIG is embarking on an "enterprise phase," during which the broader cancer research community can connect through a variety of technical, product, service, and training programs. All organizations in the cancer research community are invited to adopt caBIG, and the Getting Connected with caBIG program is open for enrollment at any time.
To expedite the adoption process, key caBIG resources are being packaged into "bundles" designed to support and streamline clinical trials, imaging, tissue banking, and integrative cancer research, and to provide the materials needed to join the secure caBIG data-sharing framework.
More than 40 NCI-designated Cancer Centers across the country have already enrolled. They will be making their trials, data, and legacy information technology systems compatible with caBIG. Their systems will be "interoperable" with caBIG, so they can provide information and data in a standardized format that can be shared and exchanged with other researchers and research centers.
This interoperability is made possible by caGrid, the underlying software infrastructure that will allow for the shared use of caBIG applications, tools, information standards, and data and analytical resources.
All told, NCI-designated Cancer Centers offer more than 400 cancer research programs, 800 shared resources, and employ approximately 14,000 independent cancer research investigators. As more Cancer Centers come on board, their successful deployment of caBIG compatibility will establish the firm, broad foundation for connectivity across the wider cancer research community.
As noted above, there is already a generation of early adopters using caBIG, leading the way to a new research paradigm. This includes the Inter-SPORE Prostate Biomarker Study, which is using caBIG to manage biospecimens for multi-institutional collaborative research activities, and The Cancer Genome Atlas, which is using the caBIG data management and distribution infrastructure.
More case studies are emerging each day, as U.S. and international organizations seek to leverage the power of caBIG and get connected.