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BMC Bioinformatics. 2012 Mar 28;13 Suppl 4:S5. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-13-S4-S5.

An ICT infrastructure to integrate clinical and molecular data in oncology research.

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  • 1IRCCS Fondazione Salvatore Maugeri, Pavia, 27100, Italy.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The ONCO-i2b2 platform is a bioinformatics tool designed to integrate clinical and research data and support translational research in oncology. It is implemented by the University of Pavia and the IRCCS Fondazione Maugeri hospital (FSM), and grounded on the software developed by the Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside (i2b2) research center. I2b2 has delivered an open source suite based on a data warehouse, which is efficiently interrogated to find sets of interesting patients through a query tool interface.

METHODS:

Onco-i2b2 integrates data coming from multiple sources and allows the users to jointly query them. I2b2 data are then stored in a data warehouse, where facts are hierarchically structured as ontologies. Onco-i2b2 gathers data from the FSM pathology unit (PU) database and from the hospital biobank and merges them with the clinical information from the hospital information system. Our main effort was to provide a robust integrated research environment, giving a particular emphasis to the integration process and facing different challenges, consecutively listed: biospecimen samples privacy and anonymization; synchronization of the biobank database with the i2b2 data warehouse through a series of Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) operations; development and integration of a Natural Language Processing (NLP) module, to retrieve coded information, such as SNOMED terms and malignant tumors (TNM) classifications, and clinical tests results from unstructured medical records. Furthermore, we have developed an internal SNOMED ontology rested on the NCBO BioPortal web services.

RESULTS:

Onco-i2b2 manages data of more than 6,500 patients with breast cancer diagnosis collected between 2001 and 2011 (over 390 of them have at least one biological sample in the cancer biobank), more than 47,000 visits and 96,000 observations over 960 medical concepts.

CONCLUSIONS:

Onco-i2b2 is a concrete example of how integrated Information and Communication Technology architecture can be implemented to support translational research. The next steps of our project will involve the extension of its capabilities by implementing new plug-in devoted to bioinformatics data analysis as well as a temporal query module.

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