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Data Junction Provides Data Integration Key to Cancer Research System at Emory

  • November 01 2002, 1:00am EST

CATEGORY: Data Warehouse Design, Administration & Management

REVIEWER: Leroy Hill, director of oncology informatics for the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

BACKGROUND: The Winship Cancer Institute (WCI) of Emory University is a recognized leader in cancer patient care and research. The Institute serves as the coordinating center for the cancer treatment programs provided through the Emory Healthcare system as well as a wide array of laboratory and clinical research programs devoted to advancing treatment for cancer patients. More than 200 clinical trials for all tumor types and stages of cancer are offered through the Winship Cancer Institute. The new GenesysSI system at WCI is an integrated bioinformatics system that will aid oncologists in the treatment of cancer and support oncological clinical trials.

PLATFORMS: Data Junction is running on an NT server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With the processing power of one of the world's largest supercomputers, GenesysSI references consenting patients' genetic fingerprints against genetic profiles from public and private medical databases. The resulting analyses will help physicians tailor cancer treatment for patients based on data that shows what treatments have proven most successful for other patients with similar genetic makeups. Implementing this system required the construction of a central data warehouse that would bring together information from a number of different internal and external databases including cancer registry, clinical trial, electronic patient chart, microarray and others. This central data repository would also be continuously updated with new data including operational clinic data, cancer-based system data, risk factor data and medical record data. Moving this data from various source systems into a common repository and maintaining that repository required a flexible integration solution. Data Junction was chosen as the solution that would enable us to transform and move a wide array of data types across multiple platforms.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Using Data Junction's Map Designer, conversion maps were created to integrate data from disparate systems such as Oracle on Dec Alpha, Sybase on NT, Microsoft Access and others into a DB2 repository. To move this data across platforms, we use ODBC drivers and Data Junction's built-in FTP support. To update the central data repository continuously, Data Junction's Integration Engine is scheduled to run these transformation maps on a nightly basis. Data Junction's Process Designer provides a diagram of the job flow. This is important for change control and allows us to review which jobs are running and the flow dependencies. In the future, we will explore Data Junction's new meta data management functionality.

STRENGTHS: An important strength for us has been Data Junction's flexibility to transfer data across multiple platforms and to integrate a large variety of data formats.

WEAKNESSES: We didn't experience any significant problems other than trying to connect natively to an older release of Sybase. We were able to solve that through an ODBC connection.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Data Junction was recommended by a third-party implementer and chosen as our data transformation solution during the architecture assessment phase. We selected it over other ETL solutions because it was easy to use, easier to integrate within our architecture and did not require a lot of start-up preparation. In addition, while the long-term viability of some other ETL solutions was questionable, Data Junction was stable and well supported.

DELIVERABLES: Data Junction provided us with the key integration piece for the construction of our clinical data warehouse and continues to be a core component in our daily business process, integrating data from disparate systems. Data Junction is key in the updating and maintenance of the data repository that is central to our research.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Their sales and technical support has been very good. During the development phase, Data Junction staff played an active role and provided helpful expertise in how to best implement the product. The help desk staff and professional services staff are knowledgeable and have responded quickly to questions.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is easy to work with and comprehensive in terms of explaining how the product works. During the implementation, it would have been helpful to have more information and examples of architected solutions that show how Data Junction bridges the gap between source and target applications.

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