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With new technology comes new opportunities to find cures for cancer. One of the ways that’s happening: the Cloud.

Brief intro to the Cloud

“The Cloud” isn’t actually a thing in itself. Rather, it’s a name for computer servers that are accessed remotely via the Internet.

Nonetheless, the concept of the Cloud has been a big one recently, and it’s given people access to a lot more computing power than they used to have using their desktops or laptops.

Basically, through the Cloud, people have access to hundreds or thousands of computers filled with data that can be processed at the speed of light.

How the Cloud Helps Cancer Research

Earlier this year, Intel announced a partnership with the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) that would create the Collaborative Cancer Cloud.

The purpose of this new cloud is to collect data from patients all over the world, including:

  • Genomic information
  • Images
  • Clinical data

Researchers could then access this shared data to look for patterns and develop treatments and cures that have never before been possible, such as for mesothelioma, which currently has no cure. This is especially important in cases where treatments need to be targeted to a specific individual’s genetic makeup.

Genomics and Precision Medicine

Genomics refers to the in-depth study of the human genome, in particular to analyzing gene sequences and understanding how DNA combines. Coined in the mid-1980s, the term has been used in relation to projects that map genomes, such as the Human Genome Project.

As genomics has become more sophisticated, it has allowed researchers to create highly tailored treatment schedules for patients on an individual level. This process, known as precision medicine, is possible in large part because of past genomic studies.

The Collaborative Cancer Cloud takes genomic studies to the next level. By combining information about cancer patients into a database accessible to researchers all over the world, this new resource paves the way for even more precision in medical treatments – and perhaps eventually cures – for those who are affected by this deadly disease.

Collaborating in the Cancer Cloud

The Collaborative Cancer Cloud will do two things. Initially, it will enable researchers to collect massive amounts of data tied to sequencing specific types of cancer and even individual cancer cell lines. As more data is collected, it will then allow researchers to improve existing treatments and potentially develop new strategies for fighting cancer.

Eventually, Intel and OHSU hope to have enough data and processing power to develop treatment plans quickly for individual patients. Right now it takes days to map individual gene sequences – within a few years, they hope to bring that timeframe down to hours or even minutes.

In addition to providing the framework for the Cloud, Intel is making the software available for open source implementations. Doing so allows developers to create software applications and even potentially hardware that can access the Cloud directly to feed in data and retrieve information that would be helpful in developing cures.

As part of the overall initiative, Intel and OHSU have stated that the Collaborative Cancer Cloud is designed so as to protect patient privacy. Although it will include genetic, imaging and clinical information, data is shared over secure networks that help preserve patient privacy.

Innovating for a Cure

Nobody can predict when or how a cure for cancer will come about – if one ever does. However, developments like the Collaborative Cancer Cloud bring us closer to that possibility.