My name is Subhashini Jagu, and I am the Scientific Program Manager for the Cancer Target Discovery and Development (CTD2) Network at the Office of Cancer Genomics (OCG). In my new role, I help CTD2 work toward its mission, which is to develop new scientific approaches to accelerate the translation of genomic discoveries into new treatments. Collaborative efforts that bring together a variety of expertise and infrastructure are needed to understand and successfully treat cancer, a highly complex disease. The 13 Network Centers actively collaborate on a diverse range of projects and share the research findings (open access) with the broader research community. Through these activities, CTD2 will contribute to understanding the mechanisms of cancer and potentially accelerate development of clinically useful markers, targets, and therapeutics.
I started working as the CTD2 Program Manager in November 2013. While I am new to OCG, I have worked in cancer research for the past 15 years. During that time, I collaborated with private, public, national, and international scientific groups on identifying and developing potential anti-cancer agents. I helped manage those complex projects, which generated newfound interest in project management and led me to complete formal training in Leadership and Management in Life Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Being the Scientific Program Manager for CTD2 marries my deeply rooted passion for cancer research with my interest in project management.
As I have learned through my research experience, the field of cancer research is constantly evolving. Genomic and molecular characterization studies show that cancers are comprised of a patchwork of genetic abnormalities, some of which drive tumor formation, growth, and survival. These abnormalities can vary within a specific tumor type or overlap across cancer types (e.g., KRAS mutations in pancreas, colon, lung, and ovarian). Precision medicine, or identifying molecular features in individual tumors and tailoring therapies and clinical practices to those features, is a promising new approach to treating cancers.
A major challenge in advancing precision medicine is translating the abundance of molecular data from large-scale initiatives like The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments (TARGET), and Cancer Genome Characterization Initiative (CGCI) into clinically testable hypotheses. To overcome this challenge, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) created the CTD2 Network initiative. This initiative undertakes highly collaborative and integrated approaches that use a variety of in vitro and in vivo biological assays to functionally validate discoveries from genomic initiatives. It brings the molecular characterization of tumors one step closer to the development of targeted cancer therapies and clinical biomarkers. Because it serves as a bridge between genomics and the clinic, I see this initiative as poised to make a huge impact in advancing cancer research.
As a community research project, CTD2 releases all data it generates. Through this open access data-sharing model, CTD2 strives to accelerate the development of cancer therapeutics by providing researchers access to identified and validated cancer dependencies. CTD2 is the first initiative of its kind to generate and share such a diverse range of datasets. Data are deposited at the CTD2 Data Portal, the open access data portal maintained by OCG’s Data Coordinating Center (DCC). The Data Portal is unique in that it includes data types generated from different experimental approaches. Because it is such a useful resource, I want to make CTD2 datasets as accessible as possible to cancer researchers that may have a range of backgrounds and expertise. As a result, I am working with the DCC to make the Data Portal user-friendly, for example, by reformatting the layout and standardizing data formats.
To organize and curate the growing number of unique datasets, analytical tools, and resources, representatives from NCI, including myself and the 13 CTD2 Centers, formed the Data-Harmonization Informatics Portal (D-HIP) group. D-HIP created a common submission framework to: (1) exchange data within the Network and across the research community and (2) facilitate the process of downloading it from the open-access repository. As a lead representative from OCG, I advise the D-HIP team on best practices for data submissions. Additionally, I work with bioinformaticians within and outside NIH to develop and implement new data storage policies.
Since the CTD2 pilot project was first initiated in 2009, collaborative efforts from the Network have made significant progress. The Network has generated many bioinformatics tools and reagents (cDNA clones & small molecule libraries), shared many datasets through the Data Portal, and published 30 joint/integrated manuscripts. The tools, for example, help researchers with little bioinformatics expertise to analyze and extract potentially meaningful information from large-scale genomic initiatives like TCGA, TARGET, CGCI, Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K), and other initiatives. Providing these resources to the broader research community will accelerate the discovery of biologically relevant targets from large-scale genomic datasets.
I am excited to be part of this unique initiative. I look forward to working with the Centers to achieve our shared goal of promoting translation of genomic data into clinically relevant cancer treatments through cutting-edge collaborative research.