Cloud Computing Powers Brain Cancer Research

Cloud computing for pediatric brain cancer research initiative

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In a gift to the pediatric brain cancer community, Dell Inc. has launched an initiative that will connect doctors and non-profit organizations involved in pediatric neuro-oncology to ultimately accelerate research and treatment development.

Using donated server capacity to perform heavy-duty genomic calculations, cloud computing will be used by several non-profit organizations involved in pediatric neuro-oncology, namely the Neuroblastoma & Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC).

"Ask your oncologist about NMTRC's pilot study. "

This charity initiative creates a network between doctors, researchers and patients to improve collaboration and ultimately raise successful treatment rates. The level of computation required to analyze genomic sequences has previously been an obstacle to individualized therapy.

This collaboration forms the world’s first FDA-approved personalized medicine trial for pediatric cancer, fostering a specialized software system between the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC).

NMTRC began enrolling patients in the first stages of the clinical trial in November. Participating medical centers include:

  • The Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Levine Children’s Hospital, Charlotte, N.C.
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center, Orlando, Fla.
  • National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md.
  • SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, St. Louis, Mo.
  • Children’s Mercy Hospital and Clinics, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford, Conn.
  • Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Ore.
  • Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego, Calif.
  • The Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, S.C.

According to the NMTRC, the data analysis requires over 200 billion measurements per patient, data that must be analyzed, shared and stored. The Xenobase method, pioneered by the Van Andel Research Institute, took weeks, sometimes months to accurately analyze, limiting the number of of pediatric cancer patients who can be included in a given clinical trial. 

The level of computing power provided should help increase TGen’s gene sequencing and analysis capacity by 1,200 percent.

This new partnership will allow doctors treating children with neuroblastoma, a rare but aggressive type of brain cancer, to relay their successful treatments to other physicians instantly as well as receive genomic analysis rapidly. 

It will also give research groups access to gene sequencing and analysis, allowing data and successful therapies to be made public so that results can be shared with other pediatric cancer patients.

The funding for this initiative comes from the Powering the Possible Program, where one percent of Dell's pre-tax profits are given to promising charities.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 13, 2012
Last Updated:
March 26, 2012