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The Cancer Imaging Archive

The Cancer Imaging Archive (TCIA) is provided by the Cancer Imaging Program (CIP) as a service to the research community. TCIA provides a freely accessible, open archive of cancer-specific medical images and metadata accessible for public download.  A huge amount of clinical and research images are collected each year with many high value data sets already available.  TCIA organizes and catalogs the images so that they may be used for a variety of purposes including:

  • Cancer researchers can use this data to test new hypotheses and develop new analysis techniques to advance our scientific understanding of cancer.
  • Engineers and developers can build new analysis tools and techniques using this data as test material for developing and validating algorithms.
  • Professors can use it as a teaching tool for introducing students to medical imaging technology and cancer phenotypes.
  • The general public can see how cancer appears in diagnostic images and learn about the instruments doctors use to diagnose cancer and measure the success of treatment.  

CIP is regularly expanding the contents of the archive with additional data sets that promote cancer imaging research.  Please visit TCIA for guidelines and acceptance criteria for new image collections.

Addressing the technical and policy challenges for public research

TCIA helps make truly collaborative and open imaging research possible with tools and services that tackle the major problems with making patient data available to the public.

  • De-identification Knowledge Base - The Cancer Imaging Archive (TCIA) adheres strictly to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations. Since publicly accessible databases and image archives using actual human images must not contain personal health information (PHI), de-identification is used to cleanse Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) images so no PHI remains. TCIA staff have accumulated a wealth of knowledge on best practices and procedures for DICOM image de-identification. We’re sharing this information with the wider research community by maintaining this knowledge base as a living document that will be updated as we learn from our experiences.
  • Curation and Quality Control – A team of subject matter experts performs curation and quality control against every image submitted to the archive.  This review ensures that no protected health information ever makes it into the archive while verifying that metadata which is critical to research analysis is not mistakenly removed.
  • Submission support – A submission helpdesk is available to assist submitters every step of the way. This includes providing tools for analyzing data sets as well as customizing and pre-configuring the submission software specifically for that data.

Powered by open standards and technologies

TCIA is leveraging a number of open source technologies to support this service.  Existing imaging informatics tools such as the NCIP National Biomedical Imaging Archive and RSNA Clinical Trials Processor have been deployed and extended.  Many of the TCIA-enabled Research Projects rely on open source workstations such as Clearcanvas, and open standards for metadata collection including NCIP’s Annotation and Imaging Markup (AIM).  Learn more about these tools in the Imaging Informatics Resources section.