cbiit-dtwin2020 (Overview)







NOTE: Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ideas Lab will now be a virtual meeting.

NCI-DOE Collaboration 2020 Virtual Ideas Lab: Toward Building a Cancer Patient “Digital Twin”

An Ideas Lab to Shape the Future of Predictive Modeling Across Scales from Biology to Clinical Care


Join a 5-day workshop to develop innovative, cross-disciplinary collaborations!

Application deadline: 5 PM ET - Monday, May 4, 2020. Apply Now »        


Since 2016, the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy have been collaborating in the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) program to simultaneously accelerate advances in predictive oncology and computing.

A multidisciplinary community arose from that collaboration and produced a report of the first meeting in March 2019. Participants identified aspirational cancer challenges that require shared efforts across cancer research, artificial intelligence, and advanced computing technologies. This Ideas Lab will focus on one of those complex challenge areas, Creating Digital Twin Technology.

Digital twins of the future will be patient-tailored models that:

  • Can be used to evaluate potential preventative and/or therapeutic plans
  • Incorporate information across length and time scales
  • Continually integrate new data and knowledge
  • Help clinicians and patients understand the risks and benefits of a particular treatment plan that best meets the patient’s objectives


In this Ideas Lab you will form new teams and collaborations and receive guidance from mentors to develop innovative research projects. Projects will focus on a digital twin component that, within the next 2-3 years, will advance the development of a model of an individual cancer patient. These projects should lead to disease and intervention-specific models and simulations, using mathematical, active learning and ensemble model approaches.


Each team will write a 3-5-page research concept and deliver a 10-minute presentation describing their concept on the last day of the event.

After the Ideas Lab, participants would submit their research concepts for future seed funding opportunities anticipated through Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research and the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Why a Digital Twin for Cancer and Why Now?

Today, cancer care teams offer patients a limited personalized view of their health trajectories, particularly when faced with varying treatment options. In the future, a patient’s digital twin (aka, avatar or virtual patient) could be used as a holistic in silico model for cancer research, pre-clinical development, clinical trials, and in other clinical settings to guide more effective and personalized treatment choices.

Creating digital twin technology stands as a grand challenge for the convergence of advanced computing technologies and oncology. It involves bridging spatiotemporal scales as never before—from the molecular, cellular, and tissue levels to the individual, population, and environmental levels. At each scale, agents interact with each other, and it will be necessary to identify the multitude of variables—many not currently captured systematically—that allow scales to be bridged and connected.

Advancing digital twin technology will benefit from dynamic, large-scale, multidisciplinary collaboration and is a major opportunity for co-design efforts integrating cancer research with artificial intelligence and advanced computing technologies.

This Ideas Lab is an opportunity to determine a roadmap for cutting edge research in support of digital twin technology. Participants at the Ideas Lab will explore, probe, challenge and refine ideas for research projects that would begin to identify what is needed to move forward.

What Is an Ideas Lab?

An Ideas Lab is an intensive 5-day program for 30 participants with a range of expertise and experience. Ideas Labs have been described as “opportunities to build collaborations that would normally take a year or more, in a single week.”

Over the course of the week, the group works to deepen their shared understanding of a complex challenge, redefine the problems within the challenge, and generate innovative ideas for research proposals. Teams form and ideas are developed through real-time feedback from mentors and peers, as facilitators and mentors guide participants through the early stages of proposal development. The outcome: interdisciplinary research that is risky, cutting edge and unlikely to receive funding from any other source.

Who Should Apply?

U.S. and international cancer researchers, clinicians, biomedical engineers, bioinformaticians, AI researchers, data scientists, computational scientists, and mathematical modelers—including mechanistic, data-driven and multi-scale modelers

Applicants will be selected to create a balance of diverse expertise.

Ideas Labs work best when participants collaborate across disciplines to form innovative research concepts. As such, we invite applicants who are excited about working with people who have different areas of expertise.

Dates: July 6-10, 2020. Applicants must be available to participate in all five days.

The Ideas Lab is intended as an in-person meeting. We are monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and are prepared to host the Ideas Lab as a virtual workshop if the need arises.

Questions? Contact ECICC_Community@nih.gov.

Application Deadline: 5 PM ET - Monday, May 4, 2020

Location: Virtual, no need to travel.

Potential Digital Twin Research Focus Areas for the Ideas Lab

During the Ideas Lab, self-selected teams will form to determine aspirational cancer challenge research areas driven by scientific questions. Example questions teams may want to consider include:

  • What is the potential for a premalignant lesion to progress to more aggressive disease?
  • What is the risk of developing a metastasis now and in the future? In what organ(s) site?
  • What is the risk of developing a second cancer? In what organ(s) site?
  • How does the environment (e.g. exposures, geographical areas) predict an individual’s risk for cancer—first cancer? second cancer? and on what timeline?
  • What is the predicted response to a given treatment (or combination of treatments—including chemo/radiation/targeted therapies)?
  • What are the predicted adverse events to a given course of treatment, including short-term toxicity and a new long-term condition?
  • What is the risk of developing drug resistance, and on what timeline?

Desired Characteristics of Project Concepts Developed at the Ideas Lab

Mentors will help guide the teams in developing their research concepts incorporating the following criteria:

  • Aspirational: Will the project address a big, complex challenge—something that is not presently known, but is important to know?
  • Data Availability: Are the data needed for the research concept currently available or anticipated to be available soon?
  • Adaptability: Is the project extensible and adaptable to new data and evolving challenges?
  • Integration: Will the project reinforce or complement other efforts needed for a complete digital twin model?
  • Balanced Cross-Organization and Domain Participation: Is there representation from a cross-section of academic, research, and non-profit organizations that include computational science, artificial intelligence, data science, oncology, etc.?
  • Alignment With NCI Priority Research Areas: Does the project align to NCI priority research areas including Cancer Moonshot℠ programs?
  • Clarity of Project Goals: Are the project goals clearly defined?
  • Innovative Application of Advanced Computing: What is the computational innovation?
  • Viable Starting Point: Does the project’s plan and approach have a realistic starting point?

Apply Now »

Questions? Contact ECICC_Community@nih.gov.