The latest projects — which include new ways for identifying, characterizing and treating prostate cancer, blood-related cancer, liver cancer and skin cancer — highlight the growing opportunity to bring computational approaches deep into cancer research and care.
“This is the beginning of a strong collaboration in oncological data and computational science between the Oden Institute, MD Anderson and TACC, and we look forward to our continued cooperation in advancing digitally-enabled efforts to end cancer,” Yankeelov said.
Along with project award funding, each collaborative team has access to 12,500 core computing hours at TACC. Ernesto Lima, Sc.D., research associate at the Oden Institute’s Center for Computational Oncology and TACC, will assist all groups in their implementation of the computational aspects of the project on the high-performance computing platforms available at UT Austin.
The selected projects are:
Patient-specific computational models to forecast prostate cancer growth
- Aradhana Venkatesan, M.D., professor of Abdominal Imaging at MD Anderson
- Thomas J.R. Hughes, Ph.D., professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the Oden Institute
Prostate cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It affects one in every seven men and the causes are essentially unknown.
This study will use deterministic models of computational medicine, developed at the Oden Institute, and informed by extensive clinical data obtained from MD Anderson. “We are integrating analyses of advanced multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging or MRI (mpMRI) within a computational modeling framework,” Venkatasen said. “The use of mpMRI has become integral to the diagnosis and monitoring of prostate cancer patients, both to assess tumor status and to guide clinical decision-making.”
The study will bring medical research one step closer to realizing patient-centric care. “It will provide predictions of cancerous tumor growth for individual patients, rather than statistical guidelines,” said Dr. Thomas J.R. Hughes from the Oden Institute.
Establishing a single-cell spatial multi-omics reference atlas for studying human hematopoietic malignancy
- Ken Chen, Ph.D., professor of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at MD Anderson
- Song (Stephen) Yi, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering and Oncology at the Oden Institute
Every three minutes, one person in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer. The nature of such diseases, including leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, is complex as they tend to carry their own unique set of variables that must be considered when determining treatment. Finding more reliable ways to analyze malignancies at the single cell level would greatly assist in advancing individualized healthcare.
In this collaboration, the research team aims to map out the molecular state of hematopoietic malignancies (the presence of tumors affecting the process through which the body manufactures blood cells) - in single-cell resolution.
“Advanced technologies have made it possible to achieve even higher resolution images of cellular differences, thereby providing a better understanding of the function of an individual cell in the context of its microenvironment, in this case the body’s system for manufacturing blood cells,” Yi said.
Chen and his team will work on the “multi-omics reference atlas,” a novel biomedical approach where the data sets of distinct omic groups — genome, proteome, transcriptome, epigenome, microbiome etc. — are combined during analysis to provide a more comprehensive guide for studying the molecular state of hematopoietic malignancies.
“We have a novel computational methodology that allows us to integrate data produced by different single-cell modalities together to reveal novel cell populations and associated molecular signatures,” Chen said. “This is particularly exciting because these capabilities are either not yet possible or are very costly to obtain without using the proposed methodology and validation strategies.”