Better access to this information is enabling better treatments for particular patients, according to cancer researcher Dr Nikolajs Zeps.
It helps researchers to see correlations between, for example, inflammatory proteins present in some tumours and a patient’s response to radiation, Dr Zeps said.
Dr Zeps, Research Group Leader at the Bendat Family Comprehensive Cancer Centre, is based at St John of God Hospital in Subiaco and affiliated to The University of Western Australia and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.
He specialises in bowel, breast and gynaecological cancers and works with pathologists, surgeons and oncologists to assess markers present in tumours and their likely effects on how a patient will respond to radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.
“Most tumours arise because of acquired mutations that arise randomly or due to exposure to carcinogens in the environment,” he said. “We want to find out more about tumours and how they’re likely to behave so we can develop targeted therapies that are patient-specific.”
The databases record up to 500 pieces of information about each patient, from name and date of birth to their response to a particular drug.
“These databases require the highest levels of patient privacy and confidentiality, so encryption and password security have to be very sophisticated,” he said.
Dr Zeps’ studies include information about 1500 colorectal cancer and several hundred breast cancer patients in WA, and he and his colleagues are able to use their access to this information to enable collaborative cancer studies throughout Australia and in France, Norway and the United States.
Dr Zeps said his work had benefited from recent Federal funding from the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) program which will enable he and his colleagues to significantly enhance their current capabilities.
Work supported by NeCTAR will enable better coordination of clinical and research databases, and help researchers to track the outcomes of thousands of patients to better predict WA patients’ likely responses to different therapies and to dovetail treatment accordingly. Through national and international collaborations it is hoped that any advances made will be relevant to all cancer sufferers no matter where they live.
UWA is the first signatory to NeCTAR.
Dr Nikolajs Zeps (St John of God Subiaco Hospital) (+61 8) 9213 2103
Paul White (UWA Manager, Informatics Systems (+61 8) 6488 6733
Development, Centre for Genetic Epidemiology and Biostatistics)
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783