After more than five years and 672 patient samples, an OHSU research team has published the largest cancer dataset of its kind for a form of leukemia. The study, "Functional Genomic Landscape of Acute Myeloid Leukemia", published today in Nature.

Acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, has a low survival rate: less than 25 percent of newly diagnosed patients survive beyond five years. Developing effective, targeted AML therapies has proved challenging because AML is not a single disease, but a condition of many types.

Consequently, the standard of care has mostly remained unchanged for the past 40 years. Brian Druker, MD, director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, was the co-responsible author and among the researchers who led the effort to bring this wealth of data to the research and clinical communities.

Druker says this study is a prime example of AML research underway as a part of a multi-institution collaboration called the Beat AML initiative, sponsored by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or LLS. The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is one of several cancer institutes across the country partnering with LLS to seek new treatments for the disease.

A massive amount of data

The sheer amount of data garnered from these samples begged a logistical question: once you have all this data, how do you go about sharing it with the research community in a meaningful way?

The study's other co-corresponding author, Shannon McWeeney, Ph.D., professor and head of bioinformatics and computational biology at the OHSU School of Medicine and OHSU Knight Cancer Institute researcher and her team led the data coordination, analysis, and modeling the project TOmajor contribution to the study was their development of a new data visualization platform called Vizome.

"The flood of high throughput, multi-dimensional data has the potential to overwhelm scientists and clinicians, isolating them from knowledge discovery," McWeeney said.

"This necessitates a new generation of scientific computing approaches and strategies to manage, integrate and visualize the data, fueling exploration. Vizome allows anyone to explore these data, ask questions, and start pursuing answers," McWeeney said.

McWeeney says Vizome can help facilitate accelerated biomedical translation and breakthroughs as well as novel hypotheses for understanding and treating AML. In McWeeney's group, Vizomewas developed by Libbey White, MFA, Daniel Bottomly, MS, and Beth Wilmot, Ph.D., who led the team.