The third annual TIES Cancer Research Network (TCRN) meeting was held on November 4th, 2016 at the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Attending the meeting were representatives of all TCRN sites currently including Augusta University, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, Thomas Jefferson University, and Stony Brook University. The meeting was an opportunity to debate, adjust, expand, and create new goals for a stronger, more united data and tissue sharing network.

TCRN is a network of sites that process their unstructured pathology reports to create a vast shareable network of de-identified data and associated tissues, leveraging the power of the TIES system.  Translational investigators at any of our partner sites can access data from across the network to enhance their research, make new discoveries, and build cross-institutional collaborations. TCRN is one of the first examples of a functioning federated tissue and data network and is built on a strong regulatory and policy foundation.

The meeting kicked off with a brief word by Project PI Rebecca Jacobson, MD, MS before all of the groups gave a recap of their accomplishments this year. Some highlights included:

  • Addition of Thomas Jefferson University to the TCRN, increasing our network by 1M more clinical records
  • Acceptance of the first scientific paper from an external investigator (Thaer Khoury, MD, FCAP at RPCI) that makes use of our data network (accepted to The Breast Journal)
  • Successful collaborations on projects from Penn, Pitt and RPCI, including research projects in which we have exchanged FFPE across the network
  • Publication of our marker paper in Cancer Research describing our approach to federated biomedical data and tissue sharing (
  • Continued progress by Stony Brook University towards joining our network

Our consortium also identified major and minor enhancements that will be appearing in our 2016-2017 releases. These include:

  • Development of an analytic framework using Docker
  • Cancer registry data integration
  • Email based management of account review and approvals
  • Patient level search index
  • Manual annotation tool enhancements
  • Increase speed for search and results return
  • Export of de-identified reports
  • Word cloud for result sets/cohorts
  • A provider role that enables access to PHI

The TIES team will be working to include as many of these suggestions in our project plan for this year. We always want to hear from our TIES users both within and outside of our data sharing network.

What else do you think we should improve on? Where would you like to see TIES go next?