Solving endocrine disorders without borders

While some of our most common chronic diseases are endocrine disorders, including diabetes, obesity and thyroid conditions, there are also a number of rare conditions, such as adrenal tumours and disorders of sex development that result from problems with the endocrine system.

Because of the rarity of many of these disorders, it is often challenging for researchers and clinicians to gather sufficient amounts of patient data to support more meaningful and statistically powerful clinical trials.

Only one in two million people will develop adrenocortical carcenoma, for example, with most clinical trails only recruiting small numbers of patients for each study — certainly not enough people to confidently compare the effectiveness of treatments.

Virtual endocrine lab

Established and led by Professor Richard Sinnott, Director, eResearch at The University of Melbourne, the endocrine genomics virtual laboratory (endoVL), funded through the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources project (Nectar) is changing the face of endocrinology.

The endoVL utilises Australia’s world-class research infrastructure comprising AARNet’s very high-speed network, massive data storage, advanced software tools, high performance computing and federated access.

Enabling research collaboration

By providing secure online access to extensive data sets and analysis tools, the endoVL allows researchers to work together and break new ground in the understanding and treatment of endocrine disorders.

With more than 8,500 adrenal tumour cases, currently registered on endoVL, it allows researchers to draw on large enough cohorts to conduct studies with real statistical power.

“It changes the robustness of the science and also the power of what researchers can do,” Professor Richard Sinnott said.

“We have more than 25 large-scale clinical trials running right now, both in diabetes and in adrenal tumours, and they involve research groups globally.

“Diseases don’t know boundaries or country codes, so we have to build systems that allow researchers to collaborate across borders.”

Published: 02/2016

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