07:14 GMT12 July 2020
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    The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has renewed its partnership with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) through 2021 in hopes that the space agency’s braintrust will yield early-stage cancer detection technologies.

    The institute first partnered with NASA some 15 years ago, and the biomedical research collaborative yielded fruit. Algorithms used by JPL to recognize astrophysical similarities between stars, planets and galaxies proved to be applicable to the exploration of common chemical or genetic signatures related to specific cancers.

    With the help of JPL, the NCI-supported Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) identified six new Food and Drug Administration-approved biomarkers needed to root out cancer. Those biomarkers have now been used in over a million patient diagnostic tests around the globe.

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    Established in 2000, EDRN has struggled with a lack of data uniformity. But now NASA's decades-long experience in codifying, storing and distributing the data transmitted from spacecraft will assist the network in organizing its research.

    By applying NASA technology, EDRN will be able to compile their collective findings into a standardized, searchable data network for scientists around the globe, paving the way for early diagnosis of cancer or cancer risk.

    In the renewed partnership, JPL will expand data science efforts to research and applying those technologies to NCI-sponsored programs including the Consortium for Molecular and Cellular Characterization of Screen-Detected Lesions, and the Informatics Technology for Cancer Research initiative.

    "From a NASA standpoint, there are significant opportunities to develop new data science capabilities that can support both the mission of exploring space and cancer research using common methodological approaches," Dan Crichton, the head of JPL's Center for Data Science and Technology, who helped form the informatics center in support of EDRN initiatives, said in the statement.

    "We have a great opportunity to perfect those techniques and grow JPL's data science technologies, while serving our nation."


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