4 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R

cancer research

Informatics: Informational Science Social media has changed the way people communicate. It’s also changing the way clinical

research data is analyzed at the Cancer Center.

In January 2011, UAB established the Division of Informatics with the recruitment of Jonas

Almeida, Ph.D., from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Informatics—the use of

computational statistical tools for the management of information—is a construct that com-

bines computational research and tool development to integrate biomolecular and clinical

data and advance personalized medicine. To that end, collaborative research is configured

to incorporate computational statisticians and clinical researchers.

Informatics methods and infrastructure collect tremendous amounts of biomolecular and

clinical data and process it in computer programs that identify the pieces relevant to each

patient, assisting with the development of individualized treatment solutions. “By identify-

ing the granularity in the data about molecular phenomena instead of bundling different

people together, we end up with treatment solutions relevant to particular patients,” Dr.

Almeida says. “Also, a disease such as cancer is a disease of a system and should be treated

as such. It requires transdisciplinary researchers using transdisciplinary methods to solve

transdisciplinary problems.”

The informatics division is housed within the UAB Department of Pathology, which allows

it better access and integration with the clini-

cal realm. However, students who work in the

division range from M.D./Ph.D.s to engineering

and computer science majors. “New residents

know that informatics is going to make a clear

difference in their future research or practice,”

Dr. Almeida says. “We live in an increasingly

informational society, and the question is how

can we be exposed to the technologies that

will be used in the future, and how can we be

among those who develop them? Medicine is

becoming an informational science.”

By working from within the clinical environ-

ment, Dr. Almeida and his team are able to

protect the patient data they collect. In fact,

the data never leaves the clinic—rather, the

informatics solution travels to the data. “The

mathematics of the solution has to migrate to

the clinical environment,” he says. “My algo-

rithms and programs go to you. In essence, my

computer moves to your work environment.”

An example of this is a report generator for the

Cancer Center currently under development Cancer Center senior scientist Jonas Almeida, Ph.D.

http://the next generation of cancer research_uab_informatics_informational_science

http://the next generation of cancer research_uab_informatics_almeida