Fighting Cancer with Cloud Computing

Fighting Cancer with Cloud ComputingUsually, articles on cloud computing relate to how it can help in business, and I am no different. Over the last year, almost all of my articles have looked at cloud computing through a businessman’s (gender-neutral here, no offense to the women stalwarts of commerce and industry) lens.Whether it’s cutting costs (See: How Cloud Computing Can Save You Money , Saving Money on Energy by Going on the Cloud and Saving Money on Rent by Going on the Cloud), expanding services (See: How Cloud Computing Helped Netflix Emerge as a Streaming Media Powerhouse ), increasing mobility (See: Working On the Move with Virtualization Solutions) or recovering from natural disasters (See: Earthquakes and Cloud Computing), the focus has been on the balance sheet and income statement, with scattered references to education (See: How Can Cloud Computing Help In Education?) and healthcare (See: Health Care’s Reservations about Cloud Computing.)

However, today’s article is completely different; it showcases a major effort by Dell to use cloud computing for common good by empowering the fight against cancer. Through Dell’s Powering the Possible giving program, the company announced that it was donating cloud computing infrastructure and personnel time towards a multi-agency effort to combat pediatric cancer.

While the infrastructure will be located at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), research will be conducted by the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC) and the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI).

According to Dell, the research process “generates more than 200 billion measurements per patient that must be analyzed, shared and stored. Unfortunately, the computation and analysis of this information can take weeks to months to process and the magnitude of this task has limited the depth and number of pediatric cancer patients who can be included in this groundbreaking clinical trial.” With the help of the cloud, this can be speeded up considerably, with TGen’s gene sequencing and analysis capacity projected to increase 1,200%.

As per the press release, “the additional computing power will also improve the availability of critical information and allow researchers to develop a real-time knowledge repository of the latest findings on the most effective treatments for oncologists to use globally. The researchers also intend to use the donated cloud to expand the program’s participation from a handful of children today to hundreds of children over the next three years, with the goal of establishing an information framework that, subject to regulatory approval, could one day help thousands of pediatric cancer patients.”

The ability of cloud computing to store and process huge amounts of medical data in a cost-effective manner had been covered in one of my earlier articles (See: Why the Next Medical Revolution Needs Cloud Computing).

Even at this earliest moment in genomics-guided therapy, there is universal recognition that the amount and complexity of data is overwhelming,” said Dr. Jeffrey M. Trent, president and research director of TGen and VARI. “Dell’s commitment to helping children with cancer, coupled with its expertise in developing cloud-based solutions for health information, will provide great benefit in terms of helping us manage the massively complex data generated by this clinical trial. This will help physicians and scientists share information rapidly, and is designed to help us arrive at the optimal treatment decision for each child battling cancer.”

We believe the cloud, combined with genetic engineering, can be a game-changer,” said Karen Quintos, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Dell. Personally speaking, I believe that the three defining technologies of the near future will be nanotechnology, biotechnology and cloud computing; it’s heartening to see synergies emerging, and that too for the right causes.

By Sourya Biswas

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