Skip to main content

Computational Breakthrough in Precision Medicine for Cancer Treatment

Featured Publication, ICB,

Researchers from Helmholtz Munich have reached a significant milestone in precision medicine with their new publication on the 'Oncology Biomarker Discovery (OncoBird)' framework. This innovative approach aims to systematically identify actionable biomarkers for cancer treatment in clinical trials. By analyzing the molecular and biomarker landscape of randomized controlled trials, OncoBird successfully pinpoints predictive biomarkers in metastatic colorectal carcinoma patients, distinguishing which treatment option - cetuximab or bevacizumab - would be more effective based on specific genetic alterations and tumor subtypes.

Addressing the scarcity of actionable biomarkers through computational research has a profound impact on precision medicine. OncoBird's transparent and interpretable manner offers an efficient way to tailor therapeutic interventions for patients individually to increase the effectiveness of cancer treatments. The availability of the OncoBird software package and graphical user interface further empowers researchers and clinicians to apply this approach to other molecularly characterized randomized controlled trials in oncology.

OncoBird Identifies Predictive Biomarkers

The OncoBird workflow has five main steps. First, it looks closely at the molecular aspects of a clinical trial, such as changes in the number of copies of genes, specific mutations, unique patterns, and types of tumors. Then, it identifies biomarkers in a treatment group with defined genetic changes. After that, it checks how well these biomarkers can predict outcomes across different treatment groups. Lastly, it takes care of the statistical challenges by making sure the results are reliable and adjusts the effects of biomarkers using resampling methods.

Prof. Michael P. Menden, corresponding author of the publication, highlights: "With this publication, we achieve a milestone in precision medicine, laying the foundation for a more targeted and personalized approach to cancer treatments. OncoBird's systematic identification of actionable biomarkers opens up new possibilities for improving patient outcomes and advancing cancer research.”


Original publication

Ohnmacht et. al. (2023): The Oncology Biomarker Discovery framework reveals cetuximab and bevacizumab response patterns in metastatic colorectal cancer. Nature Communications.


About the scientist

Prof Michael P. Menden, Principal Investigator at the Institute of Computational Biology at the Computational Health Center at Helmholtz Munich and Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, Department of Biochemistry and Pharmacology



Funding information

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 950293). The clinical study received industrial funding from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt,Germany and Pfizer GmbH, Germany. The transcriptome-based microarray for gene expression using Xcel® Array received funding from Almac Ltd, Belfast, UK. The FoundationOne® based sequencing analysis (MSI) received funding from Roche Pharma AG, Grenzach, Germany (grant numbers: n/a).