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Bioinformatics Experts Join Cedars-Sinai to Develop Personalized Treatments Based on Patients' DNA

Los Angeles - April 11, 2013 – Prominent medical statistics expert Zhenqiu Liu, PhD, has joined Cedars-Sinai as the director of Bioinformatics in the Department of Medicine’s Hematology/Oncology Division. Bioinformatics helps tailor discoveries and treatment plans for patients by uncovering the way individual genes and gene sequences respond to specific therapies. The goal of bioinformatics is to prescribe treatments that are likely to be optimally effective, based on a patient’s genetic makeup.  

“Bioinformatics is a rapidly growing and exciting field in medicine,” said Steven Piantadosi, MD, PhD, director of the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai. “Cedars-Sinai has a long tradition of leadership in emerging technologies and innovations in patient care. We are excited to welcome Dr. Liu, one of the most notable scientists in this emerging field.”   

Prior to joining Cedars-Sinai, Liu was an associate professor of bioinformatics at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Greenebaum Cancer Center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Liu’s research there was in the broad area of bioinformatics, computational biology and big data mining and funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Science Foundation.

The Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at Cedars-Sinai offers comprehensive statistical consulting and data services for clinical and basic science cancer research initiatives. Currently, Liu is concentrating on research topics such as survivorship predictions, biomarker identification and computational techniques.   

“Most individuals who use a cellphone don’t understand how it works, but they rely on its output and expect the phone to work properly,” said Robert Figlin, MD, FACP, professor of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, director of the Division of Hematology Oncology and deputy director at Cedars-Sinai’s Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute. The field of bioinformatics is similar—patients expect therapies and drugs to work for their specific disease, without a need to or desire to understand the mechanics of how the treatment actually works. Liu and colleagues will be responsible for dissecting the ‘how’ of research and translating it to patient care.”    

Liu earned a PhD in Operations Research with a concentration in data mining, as well as a master’s degree in Computer Science, both from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. His postdoctoral training was at the Bioinformatics Cell, Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center in Fort Detrick, Md., and at the Department of Statistics at Ohio State University.  

Joining Liu on the quest to develop new personalized medical regimens is Xiao Zhang, PhD, a research scientist in the field of biostatistics. Zhang will utilize her research expertise in multivariate analysis using the Bayesian method, a technique used to update the probability estimates, missing data analysis, survival analysis and statistical methods in clinical trials. She earned her master’s degree in probability and statistics from Beijing University of China and her doctorate in biostatistics from the University of California, Los Angeles. Zhang comes to Cedars-Sinai from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, where she was a research assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Alabama, Birmingham.