The Role of caBIG®

The National Cancer Institute has in recent years developed an informatics program called caBIG® (cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid®), designed to improve patient care and accelerate scientific discoveries by enabling the collection and analysis of large amounts of biological and clinical information and facilitating connectivity and collaboration among biomedical researchers and organizations. caBIG® infrastructure and tools provide the “electronic glue” for the BIG Health Consortium™ and its projects.

caBIG® is centered on four key principles:

  • Open Development—The planning, testing, validation and deployment of caBIG® tools and infrastructure are open to the entire research community, and contributions from many organizations ensure applicability to a wide range of common research problems.
  • Open Access—caBIG® is open to all individuals and organizations interested in solving their data management and connectivity challenges, thus ensuring widespread access to tools, data and infrastructure.
  • Open Source—The underlying software code of caBIG® tools is freely available for use and modification by any organization, public or private, thus encouraging commercial partnerships.
  • Federation—Data and analytical resources can be controlled locally, or integrated across multiple sites. Control of secure access to those resources is retained by the originating organization. This federated approach obviates the need for a central authority and reduces data management overhead.

Together, these four organizing principles ensure the availability of robustly designed tools that address a wide range of basic and clinical research requirements. Central to these needs is the requirement for interoperability—the ability to access and make meaningful use of data and information by multiple systems. This is accomplished in caBIG® by designing, building and deploying IT based on industry-recognized standards and utilizing an Enterprise Architectural Framework. Moreover, through the availability of well-specified Application Programming Interfaces (API) and Software Development Kits (SDKs) for third-party developers, the process of creating new caBIG®-compatible software or adapting existing software to become caBIG®-compatible is simplified, encouraging partnerships across the IT community.

At the heart of the caBIG® program, invisible to the end user and customized for the specific needs of biomedical researchers, is caGrid, a model-driven, service-oriented architecture infrastructure that provides standards-based core “services,” tools and interfaces so the community can connect to share data and analyses efficiently and securely. More than 120 “nodes” are available through caGrid. The number continues to expand as more and more organizations set up nodes on the grid, making caGrid the largest biomedical research network in the world today.