Hiding within those mounds of data is knowledge that could change the life of a patient, or change the world.
—Atul Butte, Stanford University
Cancer” is the term given for a class of diseases in which abnormal cells divide in an uncontrolled fashion and invade body tissues. There are more than 100 unique types of cancer. Most are named after the location (usually an organ) where they begin. Cancer begins in the cells of the body. Under normal circumstances, the human body controls the production of new cells to replace cells that are old or have become damaged. Cancer is not normal. In patients with cancer, cells do not die when they are supposed to and new cells form when they are not needed (like when I ask my kids to use the copy machine and I get back ten copies instead of the one I asked for). The extra cells may form a mass of tissue; this is referred to as a tumor. Tumors come in two varieties: benign tumors, which are not cancerous, and malignant tumors, which are cancerous. Malignant tumors spread through the body and invade the tissue. My family, like most I know, has lost a family member to the disease. There were an estimated 1.6 million new cases of cancer in the United States in 2013 and more than 580,000 deaths as a result of the disease.
An estimated 235,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, and about 40,000 people will die in 2014 as a result of the disease. The most common type of breast cancer is ductal ...