Public Release: 

Under the redwoods, UC Santa Cruz fights kids' cancer using computers

Genomics Institute project matches tumors to treatment options, helps find hope

University of California - Santa Cruz

SANTA CRUZ, CA - August 17 , 2017 - When you hear the words "Santa Cruz," you likely think of surf, sand and other beachside fun. It's easy to forget there is a world class research institution, University of California, Santa Cruz, nestled in the redwoods right above town.

With the arresting beauty of the Monterey Bay and nostalgic fun of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, tourists rarely ask about the serious research happening just up the hill. They seldom lay eyes on UC Santa Cruz, a university ranked 4th in the world for research influence, as measured by the number of times UC Santa Cruz faculty's published work is cited by scholars around the world.

So, it is understandable that even locals may not know that there is a top research team at UC Santa Cruz's Baskin School of Engineering who is taking on pediatric cancer using big data.

The City of Santa Cruz Economic Development Office recently sat down with Treehouse Childhood Cancer Initiative Founder Olena Morozova and UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute Scientific Director David Haussler to learn more about how UC Santa Cruz is working to better understand and better treat cancer in children -- all without the benefit of a medical school.

"We are giving new hope to these families that otherwise would be out of treatment options," says Morozova. "And time will tell if some of those will actually translate to cures," she said.


About the Treehouse

The mission of the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute's Treehouse Childhood Cancer Initiative is to change the story for childhood cancer patients by employing genomic data and computational approaches that could identify less toxic and more effective treatments. Treehouse analyzes a child's cancer data against both childhood and adult patient cohorts across all types of cancer. This "pan-cancer" analysis of adult and pediatric tumors may identify situations where an adult drug is predicted to work on a subset of pediatric patients.

We are able to do this work at UC Santa Cruz because we can compare individual pediatric tumors against the vast database of 11,000+ tumors available at the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute, which is internationally known for its commitment to sharing genomic data worldwide.

Initially funded by the State of California, California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine, Treehouse is now funded by St. Baldrick's, with additional support from pediatric cancer advocacy organizations such as Unravel and Team G.

About the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute

Comprised of diverse researchers from a variety of disciplines across academic divisions, the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute leads UC Santa Cruz's efforts to unlock the world's genomic data and accelerate breakthroughs in health and evolutionary biology. Our platforms, technologies, and scientists unite global communities to create and deploy data-driven, life-saving treatments and innovative environmental and conservation efforts.

About the Baskin School of Engineering

The Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz offers unique opportunities for education, research and training. Faculty and students seek new approaches to critical 21st century challenges within the domains of data science, genomics, bioinformatics, biotechnology, statistical modeling, high performance computing, sustainability engineering, human-centered design, communications, optoelectronics and photonics, networking and technology management. By leveraging novel tools that emerge from changing technologies, we have pioneered new engineering approaches and disciplines, examples of which include biomolecular engineering, computational media, and technology and information management.

About UC Santa Cruz

The University of California, Santa Cruz, has earned national distinction as a university with high-impact research and an uncommon commitment to teaching and public service.

A campus with world-class facilities and one of the most visually spectacular settings in higher education, UC Santa Cruz provides unparalleled opportunities for students to learn through hands-on experience. A commitment to environmental stewardship and community engagement are also central to UCSC's core values.

Undergraduates pursue coursework in 65 majors in the arts, engineering, humanities, physical and biological sciences, and social sciences. Graduate students work toward master's degrees, doctoral degrees, and graduate certificates in 41 academic programs.

UCSC people, including about 93,000 alumni, are leaders in virtually every field; and the campus is highly regarded for the positive impact it has on society. For more about our recent achievements, see

About the City of Santa Cruz Economic Development Office

There is no place like Santa Cruz and we work hard to keep it that way. At the Economic Development Office, we are passionate about what we do. Whether you're just starting up or are long-established, we love supporting all businesses. We are committed to providing the tools and resources you need to make your dream a reality. Caring deeply about your success, empathizing with your joys and complications, we strive to be your advocate. Our business is you. Visit to learn more.

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