The Challenge

Researchers spend too much time managing data instead of performing research. Spreadsheet-based data collection and dissemination strategies result in siloed data that is difficult to understand, analyze and share. In addition, with minimal enforced standardization, data validation or audit tracking, data integrity is difficult to maintain. Most importantly, the inability to relate and analyze data across experiments hinders hypothesis generation.

The Kickoff

We partnered with MD Anderson to achieve our common goal of curing cancer by improving researchers’ workflow. We sat down with researchers, clinicians, data coordinators, and administrators to identify the largest areas of need for the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology. It turned out that the department’s laboratory for generating patient-derived tumor xenograft models was becoming a research bottleneck. By focusing our initial efforts there, we could have a large impact while improving many parts of the research process. With our goal set, we dug our heels in the oil-rich sand of Houston and got to work.

Reason Behind the Design

Providing researchers, scientists and doctors with a platform to input and query data was at the heart of this application. This project’s focus was not on designing a beautiful interface. It was about creating an interface that these groups could all use to communicate. An application that satisfied each user’s needs and put them on the same playing field. Our main concentration was on the interactions and immediate feedback a user received when data was input or queried. It was crucial that each button, form or action produced a result, good or bad.

  • “Their work with my lab team brings tears to my eyes because we can now track tissue data and focus more on finding a cure.”
    —Dr. Navone, Associate Professor, Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology

The Outcome

A HIPAA-compliant, database-backed, flexible web application that helps researchers collect, view, and better understand laboratory data. This allows for easier data analysis, better data integrity, simplified data acquisition, and secure storage. It provides a single source for data that researchers can easily search, filter, and compare research data alongside clinical information.

What’s Next

Expanding the use of this software to the remaining departments in the Division of Cancer Research at MD Anderson and then to other top cancer research centers in the country. As a leader in cancer research, MD Anderson can spread a culture of collaboration within and across research institutions by securely and strategically providing data access to other labs. This will increase the collective benefits of cancer research, improve the expertise of all clinicians and scientists, and ultimately expedite the process of hypothesis generation.

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