Skip to main content

University of Michigan School of Information


Facilitating Cancer Centers in Sharing Data, Improving Treatment

Wednesday, 10/18/2017

Electronic health records (EHRs) shared between cancer centers greatly help advance cancer treatment. But current search engine software enabling the sharing of physicians’ clinical notes can be improved, thus providing more effective, widespread data-sharing across cancer centers, which is especially important for rare cancer treatment.

University of Michigan School of Information clinical associate professor of information David Hanauer (principal investigator) and UMSI associate professor Qiaozhu Mei (participating investigator) have received an $845,611 National Institutes of Health grant for the “Advanced Development and Dissemination of EMERSE for Cancer Phenotyping from Medical Records.” 

Working with five cancer treatment centers, Hanauer and Mei will further develop the innovative capabilities within EMERSE (electronic medical record search engine), which was developed by the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center Informatics Core. EMERSE has had widespread local success in supporting hundreds of cancer studies and has led to more than 120 peer-reviewed studies. 

Specifically, the search engine has features that enable research, including visualization of results, reusable patient lists and shareable sets of search terms that promote more reproducible searches.

But innovations will greatly enhance the effectiveness of EMERSE, say the researchers. They specifically plan to enable searches across cancer centers, important especially for treatment of rare cancers. This initiative aligns with a growing number of national data-sharing initiatives. Their goal is to disseminate the tool to cancer centers nationwide.

The study also will result in promoting the reproducibility of searches across sites and within studies and will support searches with identified clinical notes, needed for cross-institutional searching. 

“The collective knowledge from these initial implementers will be integrated into a ‘roadmap’ guide to help future cancer centers and other institutions implement EMERSE with ease,” according to the researchers.

Hanauer is also associate professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases in the U-M Medical School while Mei holds an associate professor appointment in the College of Engineering. The five-year study began in August 2017 and will conclude in March, 2022.

- UMSI News Service