A Personalized, Precise Approach to Fighting Cancer

Cancer is the second major cause of mortality in the United States and targeted cancer therapies are bringing about an exponential increase in effectiveness over traditional cancer therapies. Traditional cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, has come a long way in the past five decades, and care can be delivered comfortably, in an outpatient setting with manageable side-effects.

Cancer is an important challenge for which personalized molecular medicine shows great promise. Recent advances in immunotherapy and genetic testing have been proposed to help transform care from one-size-fits-all to a highly specialized range of options that could be adapted to fit an individual’s molecular features. However, we are still far from understanding and navigating cancer.

The variety of cancer mutations means that effective diagnosis and treatment of cancer must take an individual approach. By sequencing individual cancer genomes, researchers and physicians may develop more effective treatment solutions. A multi-omics approach based on big data analyses could lead to substantial advances in cancer treatment, ushering in an exciting new paradigm in cancer treatment.

Accessibility of new technologies such as next-generation sequencing remains a barrier for many patients. The skills needed, and associated costs of  technology have prevented physicians and patients from using precision oncology to its full potential so far. The skills and equipment required to collect and analyze genomic data can be expensive. And generally, Bioinformaticians have to go through rigorous training in linux, python, R, databases, visualization and an endless list of new algorithms to even understand the complex datasets.

To encourage more researchers to make use of the potential and power afforded by big data, we designed a free series of lessons which simplify the computational aspects of analysis to allow scientists from all backgrounds to move forward in the world of big data. The cancer series has practical, hands-on projects that allow students to practice analyses with data adapted from real datasets.

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