App challenge winners harness public data for cancer treatment

By Mike Miliard
10:59 AM

Two new winners of a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) innovation challenge have created health IT applications that use public data and to help patients and healthcare professionals prevent, detect, diagnose and treat cancer.

The winning apps, which were presented this week at the Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences, were each awarded $20,000 by the Office for the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). They are:

  • Ask Dory! Submitted by Chintan Patel, Sharib Khan, MD, and Aamir Hussain of Applied Informatics, LLC, the app helps patients find information about clinical trials for cancer and other diseases, integrating data from and making use of an entropy-based, decision-tree algorithm. A functional demonstration of the application is available at
  • My Cancer Genome. Submitted by Mia Levy, MD, of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the app provides therapeutic options based on the individual patient’s tumor gene mutations, making use of the NCI’s physician data query clinical trial registry data set and information on genes being evaluated in therapeutic clinical trials. The app is in operation at

Information on the four semifinalist teams can be found here.

With the support of the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, ONC launched the “Using Public Data for Cancer Prevention and Control: From Innovation to Impact” challenge this summer in support of ONC’s Investing in Innovation (i2) program, which utilizes prizes and challenges to facilitate innovation and obtain solutions to intractable health IT problems. Aligned with the Obama administration’s innovation agenda, i2 is the first federal program to operate under the authority of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, according to HHS officials.

“What makes these health IT challenges so powerful is their ability to catalyze the expertise and creativity of innovators both in and out of health care,” said Wil Yu, ONC’s special assistant for innovations. “We seek breakthrough solutions to nuanced issues; some are ready for the marketplace and some are prototypes, but all will have a great potential to benefit Americans. Ask Dory and My Cancer Genome are examples of results that innovation challenges can incentivize and deliver – we’re really excited to see their impact.”

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