First-of-its-kind data sharing network poised to radically transform how breast cancer researchers access and share data

Oct 26, 2022 (New York, NY)—The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) announced the launch of its Global Data Hub, an innovative, centralized collection of breast cancer research data that will dramatically expedite new studies and amplify the impact of all BCRF investments.

No single data point, or even database, will be the end of breast cancer. The power of data is in the aggregate—when results from several genetic, molecular, and clinical studies are combined to make scientific conclusions. Big data takes this one step further: By amassing large datasets and coupling them with artificial intelligence, researchers can pursue ideas they never could have explored in isolation.

Yet, research often yields mountains of data that are underutilized—discoveries are hiding in this untapped information. As a visionary leader in breast cancer research, BCRF stands to revolutionize the field once again.

In the current research environment, scientists access breast cancer data by navigating disparate databases. Genetic tests, tissue biobanks, electronic health records, and molecular data are all spread across multiple sites. Many datasets are difficult to find, and those that are accessible are not breast cancer–specific. Data access and sharing methodologies for breast cancer research are in desperate need of a user experience upgrade to maximize their true potential.

BCRF—long a convener by design—is uniquely poised to launch the first Global Data Hub dedicated to breast cancer research. The Foundation’s unparalleled global network of leading researchers, deep experience coordinating international research consortia, and existing partnership with the University of Pittsburgh—a leader in supercomputing—is the ideal collection of expertise to build this centralized hub. This modern, cloud-based research portal will facilitate “one-stop-shopping” for laboratory and patient-derived data in the field.

“Data sharing and interconnectivity are desperately needed in research, and the BCRF Global Data Hub will, for the first time, provide the infrastructure and community to make it happen in the field of breast cancer. This hub is the next step in our longstanding commitment to innovation and fostering collaboration, and will break down barriers.,” said BCRF Chief Scientific Officer Dorraya El-Ashry, PhD. “We aren’t just propelling research forward—we’re paving a new future for science.”

BCRF’s Approach to Collaboration and Innovation in Data Sharing

The BCRF Global Data Hub will include all relevant BCRF-supported datasets from its investigators around the world, and this integration will begin in 2022. In the outyears, data will be invited from and made available to the wider breast cancer community to ultimately impact all breast cancer research.

“Our tiered approach to launch will ensure sustainable growth of the Hub,” said BCRF Scientific Director Judy Garber, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “By enabling more than 250 of the world’s best breast cancer scientists to access and potentially upload data, the impact of each research project—and the BCRF investment in that project—will move beyond a single endeavor and rapidly enable broad expansion of its impact on scientific discovery. When access further extends to all breast cancer researchers, the possibilities will be endless.”

One of BCRF’s biggest datasets to date is the world’s largest repository of matched primary and metastatic tumor data, collected by the AURORA projects to illuminate the metastatic process. Based in Europe and the U.S., AURORA is supported by BCRF’s Evelyn H. Lauder Founder’s Fund for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research. Ensuring that the world’s leading minds in breast cancer have access to this data, through the Global Data Hub, will be vital to advancing our understanding of metastasis. 

“When we launched AURORA, we were so hopeful about its potential,” said Adrian Lee, PhD, professor of pharmacology and chemical biology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and director of the Institute for Precision Medicine at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “Now, 10 years later, our initial hopes seem so modest; the Global Data Hub holds the promise to radically augment the impact of each patient’s contribution to this study.”

A Ready-Made Partnership: BCRF and the University of Pittsburgh

The computing power behind the BCRF Global Data Hub lies with Chief Research Informatics Officer Jonathan Silverstein, MD, and his team at the Pitt School of Medicine.

“We’ve been developing this model with great success over the years, and we’re excited to see how the Data Hub will revolutionize the resources available to breast cancer scientists,” said Dr. Silverstein.

Dr. Silverstein and his team at Pitt are pioneers in data coordination and sharing—with vast experience coupling clinical and biological repositories with cutting-edge high-performance computing. The team already manages the AURORA U.S. data, and as a partner for the BCRF Data Hub, they will design and manage the Hub’s overall technical approach and coordinate data security to ensure the highest regulatory and data privacy standards.

BCRF’s Founding Scientific Director Larry Norton, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, shared his thoughts on the sheer potential of the Data Hub. “Looking at the heavenly bodies in the night sky all the ancients could do was wonder. Modern astronomy started with that wonder, but it was the collection of massive amounts of data and its organization in libraries that allowed the great scientists of yesteryear to solve the mysteries of physics. We are now embarking on a similar journey, gathering biologic data and making it usable to the great scientists of today so that we may, finally, solve the mysteries of cancer.”

Visit the Global Data Hub.

###

About the Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Breast cancer is a complex disease with no simple solution. Research is the key to stopping it in its tracks. Founded in 1993 by Evelyn H. Lauder, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation is the largest private funder of breast cancer research in the world. We invest in the best minds in science—from those investigating prevention to metastasis—and foster cross-disciplinary collaboration. Our approach accelerates the entire field and moves us closer to the answers we urgently need. We can’t stop now. Join us in fueling the world’s most promising research. With you, we will be the end of breast cancer. Learn more and get involved at BCRF.org.

About the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

As one of the nation’s leading academic centers for biomedical research, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine integrates advanced technology with basic science across a broad range of disciplines in a continuous quest to harness the power of new knowledge and improve the human condition. Driven mainly by the School of Medicine and its affiliates, Pitt has ranked among the top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1998. In rankings released by the National Science Foundation, Pitt is in the upper echelon of all American universities in total federal science and engineering research and development support.

Likewise, the School of Medicine is equally committed to advancing the quality and strength of its medical and graduate education programs, for which it is recognized as an innovative leader, and to training highly skilled, compassionate clinicians and creative scientists well-equipped to engage in world-class research. The School of Medicine is the academic partner of UPMC, which has collaborated with the University to raise the standard of medical excellence in Pittsburgh and to position health care as a driving force behind the region’s economy. For more information about the School of Medicine, see medschool.pitt.edu.

Get the Latest

Sign up for updates on groundbreaking research and stories from the breast cancer community.