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Abstract | Full Editorial

The personalised medicine project

Guest Editor: Norbert Graf

Department of Paediatric Oncology, Saarland University, 66421 Homburg, Germany

'p-medicine - From data sharing and integration via VPH (Virtual Physiological Human) models to personalised medicine' is a 4-year Integrated Project funded by the European commission [1, 2]. The project aims to develop new tools, an IT infrastructure and VPH models to accelerate personalised medicine for the benefit of patients. In p-medicine 19 partners from 9 European countries and Japan with academic, industrial or clinical backgrounds have dedicated themselves to create support and sustain new knowledge and innovative technologies to overcome current problems in clinical research and pave the way for a more individualised therapy. Beneficiaries of the project represent Universities and SMEs as well as industry and are composed of different stakeholders from IT, basic research, clinical medicine, law and ethics, thus guaranteeing a surplus of expected results from the project.

Medicine is currently undergoing a huge change by focusing on the integrated diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease in individual patients involved in personalised medicine. Personalised medicine is, in theory, evidence-based and delivers individualised medicine at the right time to the right patient resulting in measurable improvements in outcomes and a reduction in health care costs [3, 4].  The challenge is to deliver the benefits of personalised medicine to each individual. Therefore patient empowerment is a main task within the p-medicine project.

Our emphasis is to build an IT infrastructure by formulating an open, modular framework of tools and services that allows efficient and secure sharing and handling of large personalised data sets. The project involves building standards-compliant tools and models for VPH research and enables multiscale VPH simulations (in silico oncology). The project ensures that privacy, non-discrimination, and access policies are aligned to maximise protection of and benefit to patients. The p-medicine tools and technologies will be validated within the concrete setting of advanced clinical research. Pilot cancer trials have been selected based on clear research objectives, emphasizing the need to integrate multilevel datasets, in the domains of Wilms tumour, breast cancer and leukaemia as a test of principle. It is a major goal that the developed tools will meet requirements to be used in large, international multicentre clinical GCP (Good Clinical Practice)-conform trials. They should be easily integrated into existing infrastructures like ECRIN (European Clinical Research Infrastructures Network) and others. Previous European funded projects like ACGT, ContraCancrum and ECRIN interlock with this approach and will be heavily drawn on. New technologies, like cloud computing, will be further developed and validated in the setting of the cancer domain. A data warehouse fulfilling all legal and ethical requirements was built to store heterogeneous data in an anonymized way for further re-use by the scientific community. To guarantee in-time availability of results to clinicians from developed decision support tools, high performance computing is being explored extensively in the project.  

In this special issue important aspects of the p-medicine project are highlighted. These include an overview of interactive empowerment services in support of personalized medicine, the p-medicine portal, the ObTiMA data management software, the biobank access framework and usability issues regarding IT-tools and services. Each of these papers is written by a group of highly experienced researchers from different disciplines showing the integrated approach of the project. Teamwork by different stakeholders is crucial for reaching the goal of personalised medicine. The selection of papers reflects the integrated approach, so that the maintenance of the scenario-based and clinically driven tools and services will be guaranteed after the lifetime of the project.

From a clinical point of view, an infrastructure as provided by p-medicine will allow end-users to enter an IT system via a portal that is compliant with legal and ethical regulations. Within this platform it is possible to store heterogeneous data in a data warehouse. Only anonymized/pseudonymised data can enter the platform and tools for semantic interoperability guarantee their reuse in different scenarios and contexts. New knowledge can be drawn from ‘big data’ by data mining tools. Predefined and new workflows allow running scenarios for decision support. Interactive empowerment services support interests of patients and also scientists in their research in a feedback loop.  

Further information about the p-medicine project can be found on our website at:


[1] p-medicine project; Call Identifier: FP7-ICT-2009.5.3 (Virtual Physiological Human – ICT tools, services and specialised infrastructure for the biomedical researcher); The European Integrated Project p-medicine is supported through Coordination Theme 3 (Information and Communication Technologies) of the European Community's 7th Framework Programme, Grant agreement number 270089; Project duration: 48 months (February 1st, 2011 – January 31, 2015)
[2] last accessed: 14th July 2013
[3] Kalia M (2013) Personalized oncology: recent advances and future challenges Metabolism 62 Suppl 1:11-14 doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2012.08.016
[4] Hamburg MA and Collins FS (2010) The path to personalized Medicine N Engl J Med 363 301-4

Special Issue articles

Special Issue: p-BioSPRE - an information and communication technology framework for transnational biomaterial sharing and access

Abstract | Full Article | PDF Published: 11 Feb 2014 /

Special Issue: Development of interactive empowerment services in support of personalised medicine

Abstract | Full Article | PDF Published: 11 Feb 2014 /

Special Issue: Usability on the p-medicine infrastructure: an extended usability concept

Abstract | Full Article | PDF Published: 11 Feb 2014 /

Special Issue: The p-medicine portal - a collaboration platform for research in personalised medicine

Abstract | Full Article | PDF Published: 11 Feb 2014 /

Founding partners

European Cancer Organisation European Institute of Oncology

Founding Charities

Foundazione Umberto Veronesi Fondazione IEO Swiss Bridge

Published by

Cancer Intelligence