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Cancer expert calls for interdisciplinary efforts at NCKU conference

Tainan, Taiwan, Dec. 17, 2012

Cancer genomics research expert Ilya Shmulevich, a professor of the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), has called on computer scientists and biologists to work together in order to achieve a breakthrough in medical science.

Smulevich was invited by National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), southern Taiwan, as a keynote speaker at GIW 2012 -- the 23rd International Conference on Genome Informatics – to give a talk on “Integrative Analysis and Interactive Exploration of Data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA),” Dec. 13.

In ISB, Shmulevich directs a Genome Data Analysis Center as part of TCGA project, a comprehensive and coordinated effort to accelerate understanding of the molecular basis of cancer through the application of genome analysis technologies, including large-scale genome sequencing.

Shmulevich said, “TCGA data is large scale molecular measurement data from different cancers. They measure DNA, RNA and protein and so they generate lots of data from individual cancer patient from individual tumor, and they do that for approximately 25 different tumor types and then we compute and analyze all of these data and to learn about the cancer.”

Dr. Shmulevich’s team in ISB uses genome analysis to decide how genes function and to find the relationship between the genes that signals the potential for new cancer drugs.

His work in cancer genomics research spans multiple cancers, with published work in glioma, lymphoma, leukemia, breast cancer, there ovarian cancer, and sarcoma. “Overall will be 10,000 cancer patients included in the project,” said Shmulevich.

However, “TCGA project was not designed to do clinical research because we don’t have enough information to make new clinical discovery,” said Shmulevich in response to an inquiry about the possibility of TCGA data being used to help achieve a medical breakthrough.

He added, “The goal of the project is to provide molecular characterization of the cancer and these data will be used by other studies to make new clinical discoveries, new follow-up studies and probably clinical trials.”

“TCGA is so powerful because it’s unprecedented in its scope, and in its scope it turns out how much data it generates for different cancers,” Dr. Shmulevich said. “There's never been a project including so many different kinds of data for cancers.”

“What’s unique about the project is that for each tumor sample, they generate all of these data, DNA, RNA, protein, and that will give the potential power of the data analysis.”

Dr. Shmulevich offered his advice for students who are interested in the field: “For students of Computer Science and Engineering or Bioinformatics, I would strongly advise working collaboratively on projects with biologists.”

He said, “You cannot just sit there analyzing those data without really understanding what they mean and that’s the major limitation we have in the field. The important breakthrough is going to happen when people are working with interdisciplinary teams.”

As for GIW2012 hosted by NCKU, he noted, “I think it’s a very exciting program with a lot of new contribution and there’s really a need for this kind of computational method and analysis.”

“Biology is becoming very quantitative,” Shmulevich said, “and like TCGA, there’s so much data, you need a lot of tools to make inferences from those data and this is why this conference is so important because it’s really focusing on the informatics, and genomics, you need to get people from computer science, engineering community together with biology to tackle these problems.”
Provider: 新聞中心
Date: 101.12.17
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