breast cancer gene

Big Data Pushes Breast Cancer Research Forward

Jennifer Smolka Our Thots

On the same day last week, two very special women in my life told me the outcomes of their biopsies for breast cancer.  One was able to breathe that sigh of relief while the other had to readjust mindsets for the tackling the beast.  It’s not the first time (and won’t be the last) that someone in our inner circle has fought this battle.  We’ve been down this road with family members and we got through it together.

Maybe it’s because I am aging or maybe because social media keeps us more connected with friends and families than we have been in the past, but it sure seems like more women are being diagnosed with breast cancer than ever before.  Thankfully, this is happening earlier through careful monthly screenings, regular mammograms, and an open conversation about awareness, screening, and treatment options.

All of this makes me wonder when we will really be able to find a cure for cancer – any type of it.  Are we getting closer?  Have we identified why we have such an increase in occurrences?  When I saw Big data brings breast cancer research forwards by ‘decades’ come across my feed, it fit with the thots that were tumbling in my mind.  Researchers at Cancer Research UK in London have mapped shapes of cells to real disease outcomes through the participation of thousands of women in the METABRIC study.   It would have taken decades to analyze the amount of cells images (300,000 cells from more than 28,000 different genes) without big data.  However, that wasn’t the case for these researchers:

“We used ‘ big data ’ approaches to carry out a complex analysis that would once have taken decades, in a matter of months.” ~ Dr Chris Bakal, team leader in dynamic cell systems at the Institute of Cancer Research

When a friend recently complained about having to have her annual squish, I shared my thots from my own mammogram just a few weeks ago:

I was grateful for my health, healthcare opportunities, and insurance that made it a possibility for me to be proactive for my own healthcare. #Thankful #WomensHealth ~ Jennifer Smolka

Now, I am even more thankful to be helping to build strong Data Champions across all of the different disciplines within healthcare. Maybe the answer lies within data analytics.