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A national cancer imaging database maintained by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has become the official storage site for all of the United States’ COVID-19 clinical images.
In addition, UAMS this week became the first research institution to contribute images from COVID-19 patients to the site, called The Cancer Imaging Archive. The patients’ identifying information is not included with the images.
The archive is funded by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.
It is led by UAMS’ Fred Prior, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the College of Medicine.
“Researchers are clamoring for this data,” he said in a news release. “At UAMS, we want to make sure the unique characteristics of our rural population in Arkansas are represented. Our state’s inclusion is really important as scientists are trying to figure out how this disease is evolving, how it’s impacting different groups of people, and why there are such a wide variety of symptoms and outcomes.”
The majority of the COVID-19 images are chest X-rays. About 20% of UAMS cases also have CT scans, which allow more detailed analyses. Many of the CT scans include the chest, abdomen and pelvis as well.
“We’re looking at internal organs other than just the lungs, which is important because more and more we’re seeing this disease impacting the kidneys and the liver,” Prior said.
The first batch of images comes from 105 COVID-19 patients treated at UAMS and includes a representative sample of the viral genomes found in those patients.
The collection and publication of the data was funded by the UAMS Translational Research Institute, which is supported by an NIH grant.
“Making this de-identified image and genetic data available nationally is an important step as we work to better understand a disease that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Laura James, director of the Translational Research Institute. “UAMS is helping to lead the way, and we expect there will soon be thousands more patients represented in the imaging database from across the country.”
In addition, her institute’s Comprehensive Informatics Resource Center, which Prior leads, is helping the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) build a large central repository for COVID-19 research. That repository will be cross-linked with the archive.
“We are uniquely positioned to help lead these national efforts,” said Prior, who also serves on the NCATS Governance Working Group and Tools Working Group. “The Cancer Imaging Archive was shovel-ready for this sort of project, and UAMS is fortunate to have superb data infrastructure thanks to the support of our UAMS and Translational Research Institute leadership.”