Integration of GDCWebApp service in Galaxy as an asynchronous Data Source
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This project contains the XML structure of the GDCWebApp asynchronous Data Source tool for Galaxy. It is also available on the Galaxy ToolShed under the name gdcwebapp.

What is GDCWebApp

GDCWebApp is a web service to automatically query, filter, extract and convert genomic data and clinical information from the Genomic Data Commons portal (GDC) to BED, GTF, CSV, and JSON format. It is able to operate on all data types for each tumor and program available on GDC.

GDC hosts genomic experiments about patients affected by different kinds of tumors. These are organized in two main constantly updated programs:

  1. TCGA: The Cancer Genome Atlas
  2. TARGET: Therapeutically Applicable Research To Generate Effective Treatments

The TCGA program contains data about 33 different tumors listed in the table reported below.

Disease Abbreviation Study Name
BRCA Breast Invasive Carcinoma
GBM Glioblastoma Multiforme
OV Ovarian Serous Cystadenocarcinoma
LUAD Lung Adenocarcinoma
UCEC Uterine Corpus Endometrial Carcinoma
KIRC Kidney Renal Clear Cell Carcinoma
HNSC Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma
LGG Brain Lower Grade Glioma
THCA Thyroid Carcinoma
LUSC Lung Squamous Cell Carcinoma
PRAD Prostate Adenocarcinoma
SKCM Skin Cutaneous Melanoma
COAD Colon Adenocarcinoma
STAD Stomach Adenocarcinoma
BLCA Bladder Urothelial Carcinoma
LIHC Liver Hepatocellular Carcinoma
CESC Cervical Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Endocervical Adenocarcinoma
KIRP Kidney Renal Papillary Cell Carcinoma
SARC Sarcoma
LAML Acute Myeloid Leukemia
ESCA Esophageal carcinoma
PAAD Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma
PCPG Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma
READ Rectum Adenocarcinoma
TGCT Testicular Germ Cell Tumors
THYM Thymoma
KICH Kidney Chromophobe
ACC Adrenocortical carcinoma
MESO Mesothelioma
UVM Uveal Melanoma
DLBC Lymphoid Neoplasm Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma
UCS Uterine Carcinosarcoma
CHOL Cholangiocarcinoma

Additionally, the following table contains the list of tumors contained in the TARGET program:

Disease Abbreviation Study Name
NBL Neuroblastoma
AML Acute Myeloid Leukemia
WT Wilms Tumor
OS Osteosarcoma
RT Rhabdoid Tumors
CCSK Clear Cell Sarcoma of the Kidney

For each of the previously listed tumors, at least one of the following data types are available:

  • Clinical and Biospecimen Supplements
  • Gene Expression Quantification
  • Masked Copy Number Segment
  • Methylation Beta Value
  • Isoform Expression Quantification
  • miRNA Expression Quantification
  • Masked Somatic Mutation

It is worth noting that all the genomic experiments available on GDC refer to the human genome version 38.

How to use GDCWebApp in Galaxy

[Step 1]: Search and install GDCWebApp from the Galaxy Tool Shed

First of all the user need to install the gdcwebapp tool available on the Galaxy Tool Shed.

Search GDCWebApp in the Galaxy Tool Shed

Overview of GDCWebApp requirements and dependencies

Install GDCWebApp

Locate GDCWebApp under the Tools menu

[Step 2]: Play with GDCWebApp

Clicking on the GDCWebApp entry under the tools menu, the user will be automatically redirected to the GDCWebApp service page in which he have to select at least one data set starting from the selection of a program, followed by a tumor and a data type, and an optional selection of multiple clinical and biospecimen attributes used to filter out a subset of the experiments corresponding to the previous program, tumor, and data type selection.

Play with GDCWebApp

In this particular example, the output of this query will consists of two compressed archives containing respectively:

  1. the original Masked Somatic Mutation experiments extracted from GDC;
  2. a list of converted files (in the specified format) corresponding to the original data, one for each experiment. It is worth noting that, in this particular example, all the experiments contained in these archives are related to MALE patients based on the filter selection.

Please refer to the following link for a detailed documentation about clinical and biospecimen attributes:

[Step 3]: Return to Galaxy

Clicking on the Submit to Galaxy button, the user will be redirected to his Galaxy instance in which will be automatically created a job that will continue to rum until GDCWebApp will communicate to Galaxy that the requested data sets are ready to be downloaded. This job could requires some minutes to complete, it depends on the number of data sets requested on GDCWebApp. These data sets have to to be downloaded from GDC and, optionally, converted to the previously specified format. This is the reason why the procedure is asynchronous.

Job running

[Step 4]: GDCWebApp Job Tracker

While the job is running we could monitor its progress using the GDCWebApp Job Tracker by submitting the Job Key on the official GDCWebApp page. The user will be redirected to the tracking page in which the current status of the job is reported.

GDCWebApp Job Tracking

[Step 5]: Job completed

When the job will be completed, two files will be created in the history. Both of them contain an overview of the GDCWebApp request, one in a human-readable format (TXT) and the other one (XML) is required to resubmit the request on GDCWebApp, for reproducibility purpose (not yet available on Galaxy in the case of data source tools).

GDCWebApp results in Galaxy History

It will be also created a list of collections containing the data requested on GDCWebApp (i.e. the output of the Step 2). Considering the previous example, Data Set 1 [GDC] will contains the original Masked Somatic Mutation data as MAF files retrieved from GDC, and Data Set 1 [BED] will contains the same data in Data Set 1 [GDC] converted in BED format.

List of Collections

GDCWebApp dependencies

GDCWebApp availability

The service is online at

Galaxy asynchronous Data Sources development documentation


It is worth noting that the Galaxy instance in which this tool will be installed has to be reachable from a public domain address. It can not work on a local Galaxy instance due to the asynchronous nature of the tool.

Additionally, this tool requires a patch of the module that is responsible of the management of asynchronous requests. The patch avoid the system to crash if a collection is defined as a possible output in the tool XML schema in the case of asynchronous data sources. It also checks if only one output is defined (required for the async procedure). If more then one outputs are defined (except for collections), it throws an exception.

This patch has been committed to the official Galaxy repository and will be integrated in the next release. Please check the status of this pull request to know if it is already available for the version of your Galaxy instance.

Alternatively, you can apply the patch replacing the file under the folder /lib/galaxy/webapps/galaxy/controllers/ starting from the root folder of your Galaxy instance.