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University of Iowa News Release

March 10, 2004

UI Cancer and Computer Specialists Join New 'World Wide Web Of Cancer Research'

Researchers with the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa announced that they will partner with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to create the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG), a network that will revolutionize all aspects of cancer research.

Clinicians and researchers at Holden will work with 49 other NCI-designated cancer centers to create a revolutionary information infrastructure linking teams of cancer researchers, enabling them to better share data and tools in an open environment with common standards.

"This is a very exciting advance, and our specialists at the University of Iowa will play a leading role in future success of caBIG," said George Weiner, M.D., director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and C.E. Block Chair of Cancer Research. "The collaborative efforts of the Holden Center with members of the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (CBCB) here at the UI, led by College of Engineering professors Thomas Casavant and Terry Braun, has allowed Iowa to take a leading role in more caBIG initiatives than a majority of other cancer centers. This is a prime example of the power of interdisciplinary teamwork and collaboration both within our own university and between cancer centers nationwide."

"We believe caBIG will become the 'World Wide Web' of cancer research informatics and will accelerate the development of exciting discoveries in all areas of cancer research," said NCI director Andrew von Eschenbach, M.D. "The caBIG will be a critical asset in meeting the NCI's challenge goal of eliminating suffering and death due to cancer by the year 2015."

To date, the capacity to harvest exciting opportunities resulting from rapid advances in cancer research -- from causes to prevention, early detection and treatment -- has been limited by the challenges that researchers face in their ability to share critical data and tools that support their work. This is exactly the problem that caBIG seeks to solve. By building caBIG together, members of the cancer research community will solve a critical problem in ways that meet their individual needs, as well as the community's collective needs.

"The caBIG will enable diverse cancer researchers to work together as an integrated community, where the whole becomes truly greater than the sum of its parts," von Eschenbach said.

"Together with the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, we're developing computational technologies that will play an incalculable role in the development of caBIG," Braun said. "By bringing together all of the strengths and expertise in the Holden Cancer Center, the CBCB and the other NCI Cancer Centers, we are attempting to engineer new tools and resources on a scale that would be impossible to develop in isolation."

Casavant added, "Wide-ranging contributions from professors Andrew Williams, an artificial intelligence expert in the Department of Computer Engineering, Ramon Lawrence, a database integration expert in the Department of Computer Science, and Todd Scheetz, a computational genomics expert in the CBCB, will make these advances possible."

The caBIG is a voluntary, open source, open access initiative that is being designed and built in partnership with the NCI Cancer Center community. Since the caBIG pilot program was launched in July 2003, more than 50 NCI-designated cancer centers have participated in the development of the vision, approach and structure of caBIG. Participating cancer centers contributed project ideas to test the feasibility of caBIG based on existing innovative tools and available data sets.

Going forward, the National Cancer Institute's vision is to attract additional partners to the caBIG network from within the National Cancer Institute and its grantees, other NIH institutes and interested federal health agencies, industry groups, and the broader biomedical research community. Some of these groups have already contributed ideas to the development of the caBIG vision.

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is Iowa's only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers are recognized as the leaders in developing new approaches to cancer prevention and cancer care, conducting leading edge research and educating the public about cancer.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

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