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A Targeted Method to Combat Cancer

Image Cancer Tissue
Cancer tissue visualized in 3D: the cells involved in a tumor can be differentiated using a unique method. (Image: Marc Latzel)

By analyzing tumors in unprecedented depth, the Tumor Profiler project represents an important step along the road toward personalized cancer treatments. And the team have already recorded initial successes: in a study focusing on skin cancer, tumors shrank in about one third of patients.

Big Data in Oncology: The Tumor Profiler Project

In the Tumor Profiler project, around a hundred clinicians and researchers from the University of Zurich, University Hospital Basel and ETH Zurich have joined forces in seven specialized laboratories to break new ground in cancer research and treatment. Researchers from University Hospital Zurich are contributing to the project too. Using complementary scientific methods, the researchers analyze samples from cancer patients and pass the results directly on to the treating oncologists. They’re also working on creating a better understanding of the mechanisms of cancer diseases. “The researchers are establishing innovative technologies and developing novel therapeutic approaches based on data-driven medicine,” says Beatrice Beck Schimmer, Professor of Anesthesiology at UZH and Vice President Medicine of University Medicine Zurich (UMZH), which funds the project.

The new and truly experimental aspect of the Tumor Profiler project is that virtually every cell is analyzed, including its environment. As a result, data are obtained that are not only of direct help to cancer patients but, due to the vast amounts collected, generate large pools that provide valuable clues to the many and varying types of genetic and molecular cancer. “Profiling the tumors results in 43,000 individual data points,” explains oncologist Andreas Wicki. “The data will enable us able to take the molecular profile of a cancer patient and derive the perfect therapy.” That, at least, is the long-term goal of the use of big data in oncology. The Tumor Profiler project offers precision medicine tailored to the patient, while promoting data-driven medicine. “All of this has an incredible impact for our patients, and also for society as a whole,” Beck Schimmer concludes.


UZH News

Marita Fuchs, Translation: Karen Oettli-Geddes