MedCo can be used to explore cohorts in order to assess the feasibility of envisioned research study protocols and for validating study hypotheses.
Through the MedCo-Explore functionality, researchers can select a patient cohort by querying the system with a set of inclusion and exclusion clinical and/or genomic criteria and obtain aggregated counts on the selected cohort. For example, researchers can run queries such as “How many patients within the MedCo network are female and have a Adrenocortical Carcinoma and a genetic mutation in the BRD1 gene?” on the distributed encrypted data and obtain answers such as “30 in Lausanne, 72 in Geneva and 117 in Bern” or “72 in hospital A, 30 in hospital B and 117 in hospital C”, where the names of the hospitals are masked and the responses randomly permuted, or “219 in the network” where only the global count is returned. The type of answer each user can obtain depends on the authorization level grated to her. The number of queries using MedCo-Explore for feasibility purposes is limited to avoid privacy breaches that could occur through repeated or crossed requests. The maximum number of allowed queries depends as well on the authorization level of each user and is jointly set by the institutions that operate MedCo.
Through the MedCo-Analysis functionality, a physician or a researcher can quickly obtain survival information for patients with a similar clinical and molecular profile to the one under evaluation.
For example, in the framework of the Swiss Personalized Oncology (SPO) Driver project of the Swiss Personalized Oncology Network, MedCo will be used by oncologists to compute statistics on clinical and molecular data distributed across the five Swiss University Hospitals such as overall survival, progression free survival and overall response rate for different grouping factors such as age, gender, treatment, somatic mutations.