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VA New England Healthcare System


Proteogenomics: Researching Cancer with more Certainty

March 28, 2017

BOSTON — VA Boston Healthcare System (VABHS) announced today that the Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Research and Information Center (MAVERIC), a coordinating center of the VA Cooperative Studies Program, is now sharing medical data from consented cancer patients with the Applied Proteogenomics Organizational Learning and Outcomes (APOLLO) program.

APOLLO is a tri-agency consortium of the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that uses state-of-the-art research methods from the emerging field of proteogenomic (protein type and genetics combined) research. There is evidence that shows detecting cancer at the proteogenomic level is better than studying the genome alone.

MAVERIC Executive Director Louis Fiore, MD, MPH, and Director Mary Brophy, MD, MPH, said they are working together to allow APOLLO to acquire the full set of medical images, including CT and MRI scans for each consented patient before and during treatment.

"It makes sense to share patient data and left over patient biopsy tissue because this allows researchers to learn what works and what does not work from the experiences of every patient," Fiore said. "We are excited to be a part of that collaboration effort because our patients can benefit from the accelerated learning that APOLLO allows."

The research that APOLLO does is promising because it provides a more accurate picture of how cancer develops. "It’s great for research," Brophy said. We are given the data and tissue we need in the amounts required for learning about a particular type of cancer with more certainty."

Studying genes that may lead to cancer and the expression of these genes in the form of proteins potentially impacts our understanding of disease formation and cancer management.

Each set of noninvasive images can be connected to the patient’s clinical, genomic, and proteomic data. By increasing access to all of the analytical, invasive, noninvasive, and clinical data for the day-to-day clinical oncology practice, researchers and physicians anticipate being able to develop predictive and prognostic models to determine which patients may benefit from precision therapy. Big data science techniques will be applied to understand the relationships among these data.

APOLLO researchers work within the nation's two largest health care systems – the DoD and VA – to test patients with lung cancer and to help match tumor types to targeted cancer therapies. APOLLO is planning to involve other U.S. and global health care systems.

VA Boston Healthcare System is part of VA New England Healthcare System which includes eight medical centers, located in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. It is an integral part of the Veterans Integrated Systems Network (VISN) 1 with three campuses located in West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and Brockton, Mass., and five Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) located in Lowell, Framingham, Quincy and Plymouth and on Causeway St. in Boston.