Big data to help blood cancer patients

May 20, 2014 by Chris Bunting, University of Leeds
Lymphoma cells. Credit: Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research

A pioneering database at the University of Leeds will help match patients with certain types of blood cancers to the best treatments.

The new resource, funded by the charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, will store cancer cell samples and anonymous medical records of patients with non-Hodgkin in the Yorkshire region, allowing doctors access to richly detailed information about similar previous patients when treating new cases.

It is a world-leading example of the use of "big data" to improve outcomes for patients and a breakthrough for the treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which relies on tailoring interventions closely to particular patients.

David Westhead, Professor of Bioinformatics at the University of Leeds, said: "It is increasingly clear that cancer in general and lymphoma in particular is a highly variable disease. Individuals previously diagnosed in the same broad categories may have diseases that are quite different when you look at the fundamental biology of their cancers. This database enables us to take a step towards more individualised treatment."

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is diagnosed in about 10,000 people a year in the UK, making it the sixth most common form of cancer, and normally appears as a solid tumour in glands called lymph nodes.

One of the key challenges in treating it is its diversity. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can be divided into up to 40 different diseases, each of which is treated differently. Even within these subcategories, there can be very significant differences between individual patients, with different genetic faults in an individual's lymphoma cells dictating whether certain drugs will be effective or not.

The database and data mining techniques developed by researchers at the University of Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences are expected revolutionise treatment.

Doctors will be able to cast aside traditional disease categories, which were defined when scientists couldn't look at cells at a molecular level, and search the database for previous patients whose lymphoma has similarities at a biological level to newly diagnosed patients.

Knowing which of the various possible treatments were most successful in similar patients in the past will help guide treatment for current patients.

Professor Westhead said: "It is very important that what we learn from treating can be used in the future. We believe this new approach will improve on the current practice of assigning patients to rigid disease categories that in reality are overlapping."

Dr Matt Kaiser, Head of Research at Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, which is providing £250,000 to support the project, said: "We already know that lymphomas are highly variable in their prognosis and response to standard treatments. By intelligently linking the patient's biology with clinical outcome, future will benefit from smarter diagnosis, more accurate prognosis and a more tailored treatment course. This is a pioneering approach that may have ramifications for how we view and treat all cancers."

Explore further: Genetic profiling tracks progression from manageable blood cancer into deadly disease

Related Stories

Genetic profiling tracks progression from manageable blood cancer into deadly disease

December 23, 2013
Genetic profiling has painted the clearest picture yet of how a type of blood cancer – follicular lymphoma – develops and changes from a manageable disease into an aggressive cancer, offering new targets for treatment, ...

Scientists explore promising new option for first line of attack in lymphoma

February 25, 2014
Follicular lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma– a blood cancer - that usually develops slowly. The majority of patients are diagnosed when their disease is at an advanced stage.

Study links Hodgkin lymphoma treatment to possible risk of stomach cancer

August 27, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Hodgkin lymphoma survivors who received certain radiation and chemotherapy regimens were at increased risk of subsequently developing stomach cancer, according to a study by scientists at the National Cancer ...

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma survival doubles since early 1970s

May 23, 2013
More than half of patients diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) are now surviving the disease thanks to improved diagnosis and treatment, according to a new report1 from Cancer Research UK.

Increased risk of relapse omitting RT in early PET scan negative Hodgkin lymphoma

March 19, 2014
Interim analysis of the intergroup EORTC-LYSA-FIL 20051 H10 trial published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicates an increased risk of early relapse when omitting radiotherapy in early PET scan negative patients with ...

Researchers’ blood cancer breakthrough

August 10, 2011
Researchers at the University of Southampton have discovered clues to why many patients do not respond to a standard drug for the blood cancer lymphoma, raising hopes that more effective treatments can be designed.

Recommended for you

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

Researchers develop swallowable test to detect pre-cancerous Barrett's esophagus

January 17, 2018
Investigators at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center have developed a simple, swallowable test for early detection of Barrett's esophagus that offers promise ...

Scientists zoom in to watch DNA code being read

January 17, 2018
Scientists have unveiled incredible images of how the DNA code is read and interpreted—revealing new detail about one of the fundamental processes of life.

0 comments

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.