A $12 million federal grant enabled City of Hope and collaborators to deploy a novel cloud-computing platform, making an immense amount of data from a historic 25-year study more accessible and user-friendly.
The ongoing California Teachers Study, which began in 1995, has already given researchers a bevy of data on how to better prevent and treat cancers, heart conditions, and Alzheimer’s disease. In the past, these data were available to only a select few researchers. Opening the data to researchers worldwide and making them user-friendly will fast-track scientific discoveries, which can improve the quality of life for people around the world, said James Lacey, Jr, PhD, MPH, Director of the Division of Health Analytics at City of Hope and one of the Principal Investigators of the study.
James Lacey, Jr, PhD, MPH
The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention,1 provides a roadmap for other population health experts who want to broaden the reach and potential impact of their own research. The novel, open, cloud-computing platform that City of Hope, San Diego Supercomputer Center, and UC San Diego created for the California Teachers Study has simplified the process for understanding the incidence and distribution of disease. As a result, scientists can more quickly detect patterns and trends that could be translated into better health for individuals and the public.
The California Teachers Study enrolled 133,479 current and former public-school teachers or administrators. They agreed to have their health and lifestyle tracked to help understand why teachers historically have had higher rates of breast cancer. The study has since expanded to address other cancers, including colon, pancreatic, and bladder, as well as heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. More than 190 published studies have resulted from the data.
The new platform shortens the time needed to launch a research project from weeks to days, Dr. Lacey said. Previously, every research project had to be custom built, but now with the data commons framework, users can get started quickly, apply workflow templates for their projects, and start analyzing data right away.
1. Lacey JV, et al: Insights from adopting a data commons approach for large-scale observational cohort studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. February 12, 2020 (early release online).