National Cancer Institute (NCI) launched a program named Genomic Data Commons (GDC) on Monday, 6th June, 2016.  Genomic Data Commons is a unified data system devised to share genomic and clinical data between researchers across globe. The program was launched by the Vice President, Joe Biden at the University of Chicago and will be governed by the collaboration between NCI and the US government. GDC has surfaced as the core program of the National Cancer Moonshot and President’s Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI).  The Vice President has declared GDC as the “Foundational Element” of the National Cancer Moonshot.

Genomic Data Commons will benefit from the allocated grant of $70 million to NCI. Initiation of this program will help in pacing up the efforts in the field of cancer genomics and it will run as a part of PMI for Oncology. GDC is a first of its kind facility which will store genomic information of millions of people suffering from various forms of cancers, all at one place. It is claimed that GDC will centralize, standardize and make data accessible from large scale programs led by NCI, which itself is a part of the National Institute of Health (NIH). These programs from NCI include ‘The Cancer Genome Atlas’ (TCGA), which works for adult cancer patients and ‘Therapeutically Application Research to Generate Effective Treatment’ (TARGET), which works for cancer in children.

TCGA and TARGET collectively are home to some of the largest and most comprehensive database of cancer genomics across the globe. It is said that these contain genomic data of more than two petabytes (2* 1015). To better understand this quantification, one petabyte is equivalent to 223,000 DVDs filled to their capacity. Having information this vast is of immense importance to the scientists.

As it claims to increase data accessibility for all, GDC will accept submissions of cancer genomic and clinical data from researchers from all over the world. These researchers will have access to the analytical methods of GDC which will help them compare their findings to the data already present in the GDC. This will assist researchers to interact and work cordially to work towards a unified goal of finding insights into cancers at a molecular level. Identification of genetic markers for different cancer types will lead towards a timely diagnosis of cancer which could save hundreds of thousands of lives. Once the puzzle surrounding the occurrence of different types of cancers is solved, then frameworks to formulate new therapeutic treatments for cancers will be worked upon.

The data available in the GDC will be synchronized using standardized software algorithms for improving the data accessibility. As raw genomic data is added in the GDC, the data will be reanalyzed as computational methodologies and genome annotations improve with time. Reservations regarding data security and authorized data access are also catered to by the GDC.

GDC will also ensure secure data storage and downloading so that users do not hesitate while sharing their data.

 NCI Acting Director Douglas Lowy, M.D. commented, “With the GDC, NCI has made a major commitment to maintaining long-term storage of cancer genomic data and providing researchers with free access to these data. Importantly, the explanatory power of data in the GDC will grow over time as data from more patients are included, and ultimately the GDC will accelerate our efforts in precision medicine.”

The GDC is a collaborated effort which is built and managed by the Center of Data Intensive Science, University of Chicago and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, under the contract with Leidos Biomedical Research, Frederick, Maryland.

Louis M. Staudt, M.D., NCL is optimistic about the future developments in cancer research which will be facilitated by the GDC.  According to him, it is significant to realize that the GDC will house data for NCI programs which are in the pipeline. It will be of great use for sequencing the genome of patients who are enrolled in the NCI clinical trials. GDC will be a tool to foster cancer research by bringing in cutting edge advancements in understanding the diseases. These datasets will set the foundation for understanding the therapies at a minute level. This will ultimately lead to formulation of effective personalized medicine for cancer patients.

The launch of the GCD will open a new chapter in cancer research efforts. It will integrate genetic and clinical date, histological data, cancer imaging, tumor profiling at molecular level and treatment responses in a systematic way. This will ultimately lead to understanding different cancers better and formulating effective treatment for every patient. This program has an ability to bring life changing results for people battling against cancer.

What is National Cancer Moonshot?

The initiative is part of the National Cancer Moonshot which was initiated by President Barack Obama during his 2016 State of the Union Address, according to the press release from The White House on 1st February, 2016. The President has expressed his commitment to the cause with a patriotic message that asks for the American spirit to innovate and identify new avenues to win against this lethal ailment.

A $ 1 billion project, ‘The Cancer Moonshot’ aims at accelerating research efforts to find innovative ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer. At an estimate, America faces 1.6 million new cases of cancer per annum and about 600,000 people will lose the battle against cancer in the year 2016. People from all ages- children, youngsters and old men and women- all fall prey to cancer and finding new therapeutic solutions fast for different cancers is an utmost requirement.

President Obama has designated Vice President Biden to lead the National Cancer Moonshot Taskforce. He will be taking care of the project by focusing on all aspects of the project to make the most out of the Federal investments. Targeted incentives, collaboration with private sectors, involvement of industries and philanthropists, patient engagement initiatives and other mechanisms will be started to support cancer research in every possible way.

Accelerating cancer research efforts by eliminating barriers to accessing information is the core objective of this project. This will also act as a platform for researchers, doctors, patients, philanthropies, patient advocates, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to collaborate and come forward with the most suitable solutions for combating cancer.