University at Buffalo Biostatistics Researcher Awarded Funding to Enhance Liver Care

Marianthi Markatou

Published August 30, 2018

“Early identification of fatty liver disease may prevent progression to end-stage liver disease and liver cancer.”
Department of Biostatistics

A University at Buffalo biostatistics researcher has received funding to apply the power of big data to enhance liver health in Western New York. Dr. Marianthi Markatou, professor of biostatistics in the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, was awarded $1.33 million over five years from the Troup Fund of the Kaleida Health Foundation.

The award comes at a time when liver disease and liver cancer are spiking nationally, as a British Medical Journal study recently reported.

Dr. Markatou, who also serves as co-principal investigator of the Liver Center of Western New York, will use the funding to cover the construction of needed methodology for inference and knowledge discovery in big data with applications to electronic health records and liver disease.

“The methods are based on strong statistical foundations, can handle enormous amounts of data and are computationally fast,” Dr. Markatou said. “But, more importantly, they refocus the question of data usage from the massiveness of the data to the question of interest and the associated data analytic task, and leverage, when appropriate, the data size for information extraction.”

Dr. Markatou will be collaborating on the project with Dr. Andrew Talal, professor in the department of medicine in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

Despite advances that have facilitated data production and collection, there is a shortage of methods for reproducible data analysis and interpretation of massive and complex biomedical data sets, Dr. Markatou explains. These data sets, commonly referred to as “Big Data,” are characterized by diversity of data types, which translates into diversity of data scales, information content and dimension.

These data characteristics scale the difficulty of extracting useful knowledge from the data and, if ignored, can give rise to invalid results. Dr. Markatou aims to develop methods that respect these data characteristics. The methods will effectively and efficiently integrate data that are heterogeneous in scale, type and information content. Then they’ll use these methods to screen for fatty liver disease/liver cancer, and to develop improved diagnostic tools.

“Early identification of fatty liver disease may prevent progression to end-stage liver disease and liver cancer,” Dr. Markatou said.

The Troup Fund of the Kaleida Health Foundation was established in 1974 for the purpose of advancing cancer care, research and equipment acquisition. It is anticipated that earlier detection and treatment of liver diseases under this award will, in turn, help to prevent liver cancer and advance liver cancer care and outcomes.