ONIX (ONcology Information eXchange), a free online cancer research portal, was launched by the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) at the end of July.
ONIX, say the NCRI, is aimed at clinical cancer researchers, clinicians, bioinformaticians and health ‘informaticians’ from both public and private sectors. The portal is free to use, providing resources and information ‐ with powerful search technology ‐ on all aspects of global cancer research, from genomics to clinical trials.
The aim of the portal (http://www.ncri‐onix.org.uk/) is to enable scientists and clinicians to search through and access international research data held online, to improve the flow of cancer research information between individuals, institutions and organisations, and thereby to reduce duplication of research effort across the globe.
Scientists and clinicians can simultaneously search through multiple cancer‐related databases, and track the latest developments in the field ‐ what research is being carried out by which researchers and where. Most importantly, when users carry out a search on ONIX, they receive the search results in a clear usable format.
Professor Sir Alex Markham, who has been leading the development of ONIX, on behalf of NCRI, said: ‘ONIX represents a major advance for cancer research in the UK. I urge all cancer researchers, whether basic scientists, clinical researchers or pre‐clinical medical students, to register with ONIX, explore the system in depth and continue to use it over the coming months and years.
‘Researchers can use it to pull out specific, relevant data from the haystack of information out there ‐ really saving them valuable time. As a result researchers will be better connected with the latest projects, data and updates from institutions in the field of cancer. What you see now is just the beginning ‐ the system will eventually become a one‐stop resource for online cancer research.’
In the last 10 years the amount of health‐related data available in electronic format has ballooned due to the vast volumes of data generated by modern molecular research techniques. The scale of this data and the fact that ‐ to date ‐ it has been stored in many different formats and locations has meant that it is almost impossible for individual researchers to use this information effectively.
ONIX will be further refined ‐ driven by user feedback ‐ until approximately March next year. The NCRI will continue to develop the system ‐ by adding more content, including databases, information about cancer‐related organisations and resources.
An ‘Intelligent’ search feature is being developed which interprets the language used in search terms ‐ called semantic searching. This enables researchers to find highly specific cancer‐related information whilst eliminating irrelevant search results.
The NCRI Informatics project is collaborating with a number of UK projects including the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) and the NHS Connecting for Health Research Capability Programme (RCP). The collaboration will allow researchers to access electronic summaries of the data held by these organisations in a secure way ‐ and with appropriate authorisation researchers will be able to access and retrieve protected data.