Brain Cancer Cache

Tumor data is now easily, freely accessible to global researchers.

A valuable set of brain cancer biomedical data has been made freely available to researchers worldwide, say researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Hosted and supported by Georgetown, REMBRANDT (REpository for Molecular BRAin Neoplasia DaTa) is one of only two such large collections in the country.

Beyond that impressive acronym, the Georgetown data resource is unique in several ways. One is that it contains both genomic information, collected from volunteer patients who allowed their tumors to be sampled, as well as diagnostic treatment and outcomes data. Most collections contain either one or the other.

Additionally, the data collection interface is extraordinarily easy to use, says Subha Madhavan, PhD, chief data scientist at Georgetown University Medical Center and director of the Innovation Center for Biomedical Informatics (ICBI) at Georgetown Lombardi.

Originally created at the National Cancer Institute, the dataset was transferred to Georgetown in 2015, and is now physically located on the Georgetown Database of Cancer (G-DOC), a cancer data integration and sharing platform. G-DOC investigators, led by Madhavan, developed novel analytical tools to process the information anew.

Researchers can search their gene of interest, check expression and amplification status, and link that to clinical outcomes, Madhavan says. They can save their findings to their workspace on the G-DOC site and share with their collaborators. Given the approximately 20,000 protein coding genes in the human genome, and the variety of brain cancer tumor types, “it will take a big village—really a vast metro area—of investigators to understand the bases of these tumors and to effectively develop treatments that target them.”

REMBRANDT includes genomic data from 261 samples of glioblastoma, 170 of astrocytoma, 86 tissues of oligodendroglioma, and a number that are mixed or of an unknown subclass. Outcomes data include more than 13,000 data points.