18 May
2016

How the Cloud Is Aiding Cancer Research

The cloud offers tremendous value and astounding power. It is involved in solving large problems, such as finding cures and treatments to diseases like cancer. Here’s a closer look at how the cloud’s many advantages are serving as a catalyst for the development of targeted cancer treatments. 

 

Traditional Data Gathering and Analytics Problems 

The days of isolated laboratories making landmark discoveries are disappearing. Cancer research is complex and requires an interdisciplinary approach. Even the National Cancer Institute encourages researchers to adopt a “team science” approach.

Since the human genome was sequenced in 2001, the public has clamored for this information to be used for health. Cancer is uniquely suited to genomic exploration because it is a disease of the genome. While better treatments seemed right around the corner, the promise of genomics was elusive. The landmark breakthrough of sequencing the genome posed an obstacle: how should researchers handle data overload? Even worse than the massive amount of data was that datasets weren’t interoperable, meaning the data didn’t play nicely together. Both of these problems were taxing on the human and budgetary resources of even the most sophisticated medical centers.

Now, the cloud is working to solve traditional data gathering and analytics problems.

 

Collaborative Cancer Cloud

Cancer research cannot wait for traditional data gathering methods, so university and company partnerships have generated numerous cloud computing solutions. Institutions and cancer researchers want speed, access to data and analytics power to handle the complexity of hundreds or thousands of genes.

Innovators in this space, Intel and Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) have a more recent development using the cloud. They announced a solution to pool data and computational resources with the Collaborative Cancer Cloud (CCC).

CCC aims to reduce obstacles of using big data and help make precision medicine widely available to patients. It has already signed on world-class cancer research centers Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, which gives them access to 96 percent more data than they would have without the CCC. This data enables them to find ideal treatments for their patients based on data from previous patients with similar genomic patterns. The platform offers software that makes it easier, faster and more affordable for developers, researchers and clinicians to understand how genes interact to drive away disease in individual patients.

Furthermore, CCC maintains that the cloud solution securely shares the data while keeping patients’ information private. While it works across distributed sites, individual researchers and institutions do not lose control of data, which means their intellectual property is never compromised and patient privacy is protected.

There’s no doubt that the cloud is acting as a catalyst for cancer research. Cloud computing services can efficiently synthesize large datasets through distributed networks to help researchers see patterns and customize treatments. While lingering doubts about security and control remain, the truth is that local storage is expensive and hard to manage. The advantages of home-grown systems are outpaced by the speed, flexibility and rapid innovation of the cloud.

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