Saed Sayad, MD, professor of computer science at Rutgers, and founder of Bioada Lab, presented a bioinformatics analysis of prostate cancer using public databases.
His main claim is that there is lots of useful data in the public domain which is under-utilized.
He shared several examples in prostate cancer where public data can be used to generate hypotheses for treatment options, including:
- Several drugs that could address a common gene (HOX) in prostate cancer (HXR9, sunitinib, aphidicolin, resveratrol).
- Only two sessions of radiation therapy may achieve the same result as the standard, which includes more sessions.
- Copper, in combination with other drugs, has been shown to kill prostate cancer cells.
- Prostate cancer with poor outcomes has a number of biomarkers, one of which (YOD-1) has been targeted by an oncogene (MicroRNA-373) in cervical cancer.
- Proteins found in a blood analysis (related to P53) could predict whether patients will respond to expensive therapies (anti-CTLA-4).
- A serum analysis can predict risk for 11 cancers, including prostate cancer.
His group is building a platform to make it easier for healthcare professionals to directly query these public databases, without having to use bioinformaticians or data scientists.
A rich – and at times heated – debate ensued about the merits of efforts to develop research hypotheses (especially for repurposed drugs) vs. getting them to clinical use for patients who need treatments today. The process of developing evidence to get promising treatments into the standard of care for patients can be expensive and hard to fund if it can’t be funded by a pharmaceutical company with a proprietary drug that could benefit. Government and advocacy groups like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or Prostate Cancer Foundation were mentioned as the most likely avenues for funding.