Exploring and visualizing multidimensional data in translational research platforms

Brief Bioinform. 2017 Nov 1;18(6):1044-1056. doi: 10.1093/bib/bbw080.


The unprecedented advances in technology and scientific research over the past few years have provided the scientific community with new and more complex forms of data. Large data sets collected from single groups or cross-institution consortiums containing hundreds of omic and clinical variables corresponding to thousands of patients are becoming increasingly commonplace in the research setting. Before any core analyses are performed, visualization often plays a key role in the initial phases of research, especially for projects where no initial hypotheses are dominant. Proper visualization of data at a high level facilitates researcher's abilities to find trends, identify outliers and perform quality checks. In addition, research has uncovered the important role of visualization in data analysis and its implied benefits facilitating our understanding of disease and ultimately improving patient care. In this work, we present a review of the current landscape of existing tools designed to facilitate the visualization of multidimensional data in translational research platforms. Specifically, we reviewed the biomedical literature for translational platforms allowing the visualization and exploration of clinical and omics data, and identified 11 platforms: cBioPortal, interactive genomics patient stratification explorer, Igloo-Plot, The Georgetown Database of Cancer Plus, tranSMART, an unnamed data-cube-based model supporting heterogeneous data, Papilio, Caleydo Domino, Qlucore Omics, Oracle Health Sciences Translational Research Center and OmicsOffice® powered by TIBCO Spotfire. In a health sector continuously witnessing an increase in data from multifarious sources, visualization tools used to better grasp these data will grow in their importance, and we believe our work will be useful in guiding investigators in similar situations.

Keywords: data analytics; high-dimensional data; omics; translational research; visualization.

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Computer Graphics*
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Software*
  • Statistics as Topic / methods*
  • Translational Research, Biomedical*