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Open Access Medical Publishing and Personalized Medicine

We are always happy to hear when scientists find creative ways to reuse PLoS ONE content, and we are pleased to share with you another example of how researchers are using open access to help disseminate findings and accelerate learning.

Researchers from Cancer Commons, a rapid learning community for Cancer, have created a Web-based app that uses information from Table 1 of a paper entitled, “A Melanoma Molecular Disease Model,” by Vidwans et al.  The paper, which published today, outlines a model for melanoma and was curated by a panel of researchers and clinicians.

Dr. George Lundberg, who is the Editor in Chief of Cancer Commons, discusses why the PLoS ONE article is noteworthy and how open access played a role in the development of the Targeted Therapy Finder application.

“Modern molecular biology supports the hypothesis that cancer is actually hundreds or thousands of rare diseases, and that every patient’s tumor is, to some extent, unique. Yet most patients are still treated using standard guidelines that are based not on their tumor’s molecular biology but on its organ of origin.  With hundreds of molecular diagnostics and targeted therapies in development, the time is ripe to develop a formal process for classifying cancer into molecular subtypes and developing proposed treatment guidelines for each subtype, including specific assays, drugs, and clinical trials. This process produces a formal ‘molecular disease model’ that can be used by clinicians to guide treatment decisions, and refined by researchers based on clinical outcomes and laboratory findings.

The Melanoma Molecular Disease Model (MMDM) lists the currently known molecular subtypes of melanoma, each hyperlinked to relevant pathways, diagnostic tests, approved and experimental (targeted) therapies, and clinical trials.  Its pages of tables, charts, literature references and supporting data pulls together, for the first time, information linking melanoma genomics and available targeted therapies previously dispersed across hundreds of publications, databases and websites.  The article is also noteworthy for three innovative ways it exploits PLoS’s open access publishing model to accelerate medical research in era of genomics and personalized medicine:  an open access knowledge base for computers as well as eyeballs; a living review article subject to continuous, incremental revision; and a rapid publication process, fast enough to save lives.

While valuable to cancer researchers, few practicing physicians or patients are likely to consult a very long document to guide treatment decisions.  They need user-friendly Web-based apps that help them rapidly identify relevant diagnostic tests, treatments and trials. To facilitate this, we are developing a family of such applications for melanoma and other common cancers.  The first such app is a Targeted Therapy Finder (TTF) for Melanoma. Using information from the MMDM, it guides patients and their physicians through a series of molecular tests to determine their tumor’s subtype, and then recommends the best available therapies and clinical trials.”

Melanoma Targeted Therapies Finder
Screen shot of the Melanoma Targeted Therapy Finder app developed by CollabRx, Inc. based upon the Melanoma MDM. Selecting characteristics of a patient’s specific tumor and pressing “SEARCH” will report clinical trials and literature that are possibly appropriate for this individual patient.

“Given the rapidly evolving state of knowledge, the MMDM will need continuous revision to keep pace with the latest clinical and scientific findings. While the version of record will remain available on the PLoS ONE website, the latest version of the ‘dynamic’ review article will be available on the CollabRX website as a hyper-document and will be continuously updated based on input from the melanoma community, curated by the authors. The hyper-document can be rapidly navigated to find all information relevant to a given topic (e.g., subtype, test, drug or trial) as well as additional information on the Web. We are developing tools that will enable physicians and patients to report their clinical outcomes so that they can be factored into model revisions.”

The paper and the Target Therapy finder are free to read and use. To try the Target Therapy Finder you can go to

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