May 13, 2005

New resource designed to ease cancer communication

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photo by Jerry Jones

New resource designed to ease cancer communication

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers gathered on Tuesday to learn more about a new resource established by the National Cancer Institute to accelerate the progress of cancer research by facilitating open communication between cancer researchers from around the globe.

The cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid, or caBIG, created by NCI in 2003, provides a common informatics infrastructure through which cancer researchers can communicate and share research tools and data in an open-access environment. More than 50 cancer centers, including VICC, have been involved in its early development.

The caBIG program is open to anyone wanting to participate and to contribute to the program's activities. At present, NCI-designated cancer centers are the primary users and developers of the program. However, the goal is to eventually include members from other federal agencies, academic institutions and industry.

In the town hall meeting held Tuesday, representatives of the NCI's Center for Bioinformatics presented details about the initiative, describing the goals, strategies and principles of caBIG. Peter Covitz, Ph.D., director of the Bioinformatics Core Infrastructure at the NCI's Center for Bioinformatics, gave an overview of the initiative and how the organizational model was developed.

The governance of caBIG is based on the federalist democracy of the United States government, Covitz said. This allows a standardized, centralized oversight by the NCI, while allowing high levels of local control by individuals and institutions participating in caBIG. This model allows the participants (research community) to reap the most of the benefits of the program.

Activities of caBIG are organized into three primary Workspaces: 1) Clinical Trials Management; 2) Tissue Bank and Pathology Management; and 3) Integrative Cancer Research (focused on basic and translational research), each designed to address a specific need voiced by the cancer research community.

A set of working groups within caBIG provide guidance and support to the Workspaces and to the overall caBIG initiative. This includes standardization of language, software design, and guidance on legal issues regarding data sharing.

For more information about the caBIG initiative, visit