Winship Researchers Receive NCI Informatics Award

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | May 5, 2015

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Judy Fortin
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judy.fortin@emory.edu

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David Gutman and Lee Cooper

Two Winship Cancer Institute researchers have received a $3.5 million Informatics Technology for Cancer Research (ITCR) U24 award from the National Cancer Institute.  David Gutman, MD, PhD and Lee Cooper, PhD, assistant professors in the Departments of Neurology, Biomedical Informatics, and Biomedical Engineering, will use the five-year award to develop software tools to help researchers gain new insights from cancer imaging data. The award will set the stage for novel applications in human cancer research, both at Winship as well as for the cancer research community as a whole.

Their work is focused on digital microscopy images of tissue slides that have traditionally been used by pathologists for diagnostic purposes. Advances in technology allow these slides to be stored as digital images, producing massive databases that can be explored using data analytics algorithms. "Our goal is to build tools to identify visual patterns in these images that can help us better understand cancer biology, or to improve accuracy of cancer prognosis," says Gutman. "This award is unique because it lets us take the tools we have developed beyond our labs to create an open-source resource for the cancer research community at large.

ITCR awards are intended to build tools to address the growing number of "big data" problems impeding cancer research. "All areas of medicine are experiencing an explosion of data, but this is especially true in cancer," says Cooper. "Transforming cancer data into knowledge that can benefit patients is one of the major challenges facing cancer researchers today. Building the technology needed to learn from image data is an important piece of that challenge. The information contained in images complements genomics in many ways."

This award is one of five ITCR projects focused on cancer image data nationally and is the first in the Southeast region. For more information about the ITCR Program visit http://itcr.nci.nih.gov.