Quantitative Oncology Research

Joe Gray - OHSU Knight Cancer Institute

Advancing research to improve outcomes for cancer patients

The Quantitative Oncology program is a multi-disciplinary research program designed to facilitate the development and application of advanced measurement capabilities from omics to imaging, combined with computational techniques, to improve outcomes for patients with cancer. The goal of the program is to enable quantitative understanding of the behavior of cancerous cells and tissues as they evolve, respond to therapy, and interact with their microenvironments.

Research themes

Research is organized around three themes:  

  1. Imaging: Investigators in this theme develop and employ new imaging tools to analyze components of tumors on scales that range from angstroms to centimeters. 
  2. Omics: Investigators in this theme use genome, proteome, transcriptome, and other 'omic analyses of tumors to gain insights into pathogenesis, response, or resistance to therapies. It also includes investigators who are developing improved tools and algorithms to speed, enhance, or standardize 'omic analyses of tumors and develop signatures that predict prognosis or response to therapies. 
  3. Systems Biology: This theme comprises investigators who obtain, integrate and analyze complex data sets from multiple experimental sources to elucidate the properties of cancer-related molecular networks, the molecular and cellular phenotypes they regulate and the evolution/adaptation of these systems during cancer progression and treatment.   

The program uses the following mechanisms to stimulate and support collaborative and innovative research:

  • Recruitment of multidisciplinary faculty members with expertise in genomics, multiscale imaging, chemistry, computational biology and biophysics
  • Acquisition of state of the art measurement and computational capabilities and development of workflows needed for effective use
  • Organization of discipline specific and multidisciplinary symposia, retreats, seminars and educational workshops
  • Development of a Quantitative Bioscience and Biomedical Engineering graduate curriculum
  • Support of pilot projects to advance technologies needed by QO faculty and to build intra-programmatic, multidisciplinary collaborations
  • Development of private sector collaborations that provide access to state of the art technologies, reagents and methodologies and commercialization opportunities

Scientific impact

Recent scientific discoveries in the Quantitative Oncology program include:

  • Leaders of TCGA ovarian and renal cell carcinoma projects that have catalogued the genomic landscape of these tumors.
  • Quantitative Oncology investigators have developed a novel shutter speed MRI methodology that may improve diagnostic accuracy and reduce unnecessary biopsies for breast and prostate cancer. 
  • Using advanced imaging technologies, Quantitative Oncology researchers have identified a dimerization-dependent signaling mechanism of RAS that suggests RAS dimers may be a potential therapeutic target in mutant RAS-driven tumors.
  • Several investigators have used a variety of models and analyses to more accurately predict responses to therapy.
  • Development of algorithms that integrate genomic information with complementary functional analyses and have been used to prioritize patient variants for validation. This has facilitated the identification and validation of dozens of novel oncogenic targets. 
  • A high-throughput microenvironment microarray system to assess the impacts of >2,500 different microenvironments on differentiation, proliferation, and metabolism and therapeutic response has been developed and used to reveal insights into microvenviromental factors that influence response to targeted agents.

Program leaders

Joe Gray
Joe Gray, Ph.D.
Paul Spellman
Paul Spellman, Ph.D.