Developing computational models to evaluate biomarkers (w/ Video)

February 25, 2014 by Miles O'brien

To diagnose prostate cancer, urologists, such as John Wei, and pathologists, such as Scott Tomlins, at the University of Michigan Health System, use biomarkers, which are biochemical signatures in blood, urine and tissue that suggest the disease may be present. Some biomarkers are genetic.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), University of Michigan engineer Brian Denton is working with a multidisciplinary team that includes Wei and Tomlins to develop a quicker and less expensive way to evaluate biomarkers, using computational models. The researchers sift through vast medical databases and then use Denton's engineering methods to assess the most effective predictors of prostate cancer.

"Research that transitions the power of into the health care domain has the potential to significantly impact the delivery of health care service," notes Sheldon Jacobson, program director for Operations Research in the Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation within NSF's Directorate for Engineering.

Traditionally, doctors evaluate biomarkers in clinical trials. But, those are expensive, complicated and can take decades to complete. With new biomarkers being identified regularly, Denton says computational modeling is a quicker way to identify the most promising ones. These large data sets include information about patients' test results, biomarker test results, biopsy results, and whether or not the patients have had treatment. Then the researchers use that information to help define data-driven assumptions in order to build the computer models.

The video will load shortly

"As a discoverer of one of the biomarkers being tested, the TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion, it is especially gratifying for me to see it developed clinically," says Arul Chinnaiyan, director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology, which is dedicated to finding new diagnostics and therapeutics for cancer patients.

Explore further: New early detection test for prostate cancer: Mi-Prostate Score test improves on PSA for predicting cancer

Related Stories

Urine test shows prostate cancer risk

August 3, 2011

A new urine test can help aid early detection of and treatment decisions about prostate cancer, a study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology finds.

Recommended for you

Fighting cancer with the power of immunity

October 24, 2016

Harnessing the body's own immune system to destroy tumors is a tantalizing prospect that has yet to realize its full potential. However, a new advance from MIT may bring this strategy, known as cancer immunotherapy, closer ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.