Through the SPARK health data platform, PanCAN breaks down barriers to pancreatic cancer research by making real-world patient data accessible and easy-to-use for scientists across the country. This important work is making a difference: Two recent publications highlight how SPARK stands to accelerate progress on new treatments and improve patient outcomes.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, said PanCAN Chief Science Officer Lynn Matrisian, PhD, MBA. Right now, pancreatic cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related death and it’s on track to become the second by 2030.

“We need research breakthroughs for pancreatic cancer,” she said. “Our SPARK platform brings scientists together and gives them the tools and  access to data from patients treated at institutions across the country . This type of collaboration promises to get us to the next new discovery for patients facing pancreatic cancer.”

A team of PanCAN leaders, including Matrisian as well as PanCAN Director of Data Science and Informatics Kawther Abdilleh, PhD, and PanCAN Chief Business Officer Sudheer Doss, PhD, are authors on both papers, as are many PanCAN-affiliated researchers. One paper introduces SPARK and how it is useful to researchers; the second discusses how data from SPARK helped to uncover new insights into how a common gene mutation in pancreatic cancer relates to overall survival.

Here are some key facts about each paper:

 “PanCAN’s SPARK: A cloud-based patient health data and analytics platform for pancreatic cancer”

  • Published in JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics in January 2024
  • Although several organizations have established large oncology data resources over the past decade, none have been dedicated solely to pancreatic cancer data.
  • PanCAN’s SPARK platform, powered by Velsera Seven Bridges, will include de-identified data from PanCAN’s major research initiatives. It is designed to fill this gap and make data specifically for pancreatic cancer available to all scientists.
  • The pilot release introduced qualified researchers to the data resulting from PanCAN’s Know Your Tumor® precision medicine service and the analytical capabilities of the SPARK platform. Know Your Tumor tests the tumor tissue of enrolled patients for biomarkers and for some inherited mutations. The goal is to uncover treatment options that target a person’s specific biology.
  • Design and development of the SPARK platform was guided by a group of representative end users, including over 80 researchers and key leaders in the pancreatic cancer research community.
  • “Platforms such as SPARK are an important step toward democratization of real-world data, with potential downstream patient benefits,” said JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics Editor-in-Chief Jeremy L. Warner, MD, MS, FAMIA, FASCO.
Qualified researchers in academia and/or industry are invited to access the SPARK platform. Please fill out the SPARK data use agreement to get started.

“Impact of KRAS mutations and co-mutations on clinical outcomes in pancreatic adenocarcinoma”

  • Published in Precision Oncology in February 2024
  • Mutations in the gene KRAS have been shown to play an important role from the earliest formation of pancreatic tumors all the way to their progression to advanced disease.
  • Using data from MD Anderson Cancer Center and Know Your Tumor, made available through SPARK, researchers compared several different KRAS co-mutations with overall survival.
  • Median overall survival differed depending on the type of mutation present. For example, patients with KRAS wildtype (normal) and KRAS G12R-mutated tumors survived longer compared to patients with KRAS G12D or KRAS Q61-mutated tumors.
  • Although more research is needed to understand why these differences in survival exist, the findings suggest that future treatment strategies may benefit from targeting the specific combinations of mutations present.
  • By analyzing these datasets, the authors hope to provide “guidance in improving approaches to target KRAS in pancreatic cancer.”
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