Database Created to Collect Cancer Mutation Information

RESEARCHERS in the USA have developed a freely accessible database for collecting and interpreting information on cancer genome alterations.

The Clinical Interpretations of Variants in Cancer (CIViC) database is an online resource created by Prof Obi Griffith and Prof Malachi Griffith from the McDonnell Genome Institute, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. The aim of CIViC is to enable new precision medicine therapies by providing a centralised database for a growing and huge body of biomedical literature. This will allow researchers and clinicians to easily access and interpret the clinical significance of variants in cancer.

“It is relatively easy now to sequence the DNA of tumours, to gather the raw information, but there is a big interpretation problem,” explained Prof Obi Griffith. “What do these hundreds of thousands of mutations mean for this patient? There are a lot of studies being done to answer these questions. But oncologists trying to interpret the raw data are faced with an overwhelming task of plumbing the literature, reading papers, trying to understand what the latest studies tell them about these mutations and how they may or may not be important.”

The content created within CIViC is freely available. Individuals can also suggest edits and offer contributions after registering for an account. Contributions to the database are reviewed and approved by a CIViC editor before appearing on the database. So far, volunteers have provided of the clinical relevance of 732 mutations from 285 genes for 203 types of cancer, by reviewing 1,090 scientific and medical publications.

Many attempts have already been made to collect and interpret genomic variants in cancer. However, the large volume of data has meant relatively overlap in the information that has been collected so far. “We are all approaching the same problem and just by chance, and probably because of the amount of information out there, we have not duplicated our effort very much yet,” explained Prof Malachi Griffith.

The research however holds a promising future for precision medicine and cancer genomics with Prof Obi Griffith explaining that this is just the start: “We are just scratching the surface of the potential this holds for precision medicine, there is a lot of work to do.”

Jack Redden, Reporter