The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation | UHN

Dr. Igor Jurisica makes progress with gene signature analysis thanks to donated time and funds

Dr. Igor Jurisica was listed on the 2014 Thomson Reuters’ Highly Cited Research List. Being referred to (cited) frequently by other research papers is an important indicator of research influence and impact.  

Dr. Igor Jurisica, Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, has announced exciting news about his gene signature analysis project. 
“We’ve made some useful progress,” said Dr. Jurisica humbly.  Dr. Jurisica is also Informatics and Communications Technology Scientific Lead at TECHNA Institute for the Advancement of Technology for Health. 
Cancer research involves intensive study of human genomics. The volume of data associated with just one person’s genome is huge, creating a significant need for specialists like Dr. Jurisica who can figure out the most efficient way to integrate, analyze, visualize and interpret the data.
Led by Dr. Jurisica and his Mapping Cancer Markers research team, this gene signature analysis project will be valuable in discovering better ways to find all prognostic and predictive markers for a given cancer through a systematic approach.  Dr. Jurisica’s team has been working to analyze gene signatures for four types of cancer: lung, ovarian, prostate and sarcoma.   
A world leader in computer science impact
Dr. Jurisica was recently announced as one of the top researchers recognized by the 2014 Thomson Reuters’ Highly Cited Researcher List (  Being referred to (cited) frequently by subsequent research papers is an important indicator of research influence.  The Highly Cited Research List represents some of the world’s leading scientific minds who rank among the top 1% most cited for their subject field and year of publication, earning them the mark of exceptional impact.  Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world, is proud to support bold and innovative researchers like Dr. Jurisica.
Setting the standard for researchers around the world
Phase one of the Mapping Cancer Marker’s project is focused on understanding whether some genes might have better predictive ability than others in finding cancer.  This stage involves the “benchmarking” portion of the work and, is nearly complete. 
Dr. Jurisica explains that benchmarking is important to both the Mapping Cancer Markers’ research and for other researchers around the world. 
“You can think of this benchmarking phase as a bit like designing an IQ test,” he stated. “By establishing a standard test and scoring system, we can evaluate any person's intelligence. The results from the first phase of Mapping Cancer Markers will allow us to create such a test for existing and future gene signatures, so that we can tell which ones have the best predictive ability.”
One of the challenges of interpreting findings from gene signature analysis is that many of the reports are not directly comparable to each other. The benchmarking phase of Dr. Jurisica’s project is designed to set a standard benchmark so that he and other groups can estimate how well individual signatures perform.
Over the coming months, Dr. Jurisica and the Mapping Cancer Markers research team will pursue more targeted approaches to discover relevant gene signatures. Phase two of the project will be geared towards finding clinically useful molecular signatures, initially focusing on gene signatures that can predict the occurrence of various types of cancer. 
Harnessing computing power on a global scale
With gene signature analysis, there is a major challenge to harness enough computing power to perform this data analyses in a timely manner.  The Mapping Cancer Markers research team is incredibly thankful to the support they have received from the World Community Grid.  This organization allows researchers to donate their unused computing power to advance cutting-edge scientific research. 
In just seven months, World Community Grid members donated over 60,000 years of processing time to support Dr. Jurisica and his team’s research.
Ways to support
Donor funding will help to both leverage contributions from volunteers and to fully utilize findings of the Mapping Cancer Markers computations, with a primary focus on lung and ovarian cancer.
During August 15-17, 2014, Team Ian will cycle from Kingston to Montreal to raise money for the Ian Lawson Van Toch Cancer Informatics Fund at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. 
If you would like to donate to the fund supporting Dr. Jurisica’s work at The Princess Margaret or to cheer on Team Ian, please visit