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Intel to pilot cloud technology for sharing personalised cancer treatment

Lucas Mearian | Aug. 21, 2015
With the Collaborative Cancer Cloud, Intel hopes to remove barriers that keep personalised medicine from scaling.

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Intel plans to make open source its Trusted Execution Technology, an encryption platform that will allow healthcare facilities to share genomic and other patient data in order to discover precision treatments for cancer and other diseases.

At 19, Eric Dishman began a fight with kidney cancer, and for 23 years he endured what he described as Russian roulette chemotherapy.

It wasn't until he had his DNA sequenced that doctors were able to administer a personalized treatment that placed Dishman's cancer into remission.

The problem is, even after his genome was uncovered, it took physicians seven months to come up with a treatment -- a period of time when Dishman said he was on "death's door."

Intel and the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) this week launched a pilot network that will allow healthcare facilities to securely share genomic data for tailoring cancer research and personalized medicine.

With the new Collaborative Cancer Cloud, large amounts of patient genomic data from sites all over the world can be analyzed in a distributed way while preserving the privacy and security of the patient data at each site. The research cloud should scale "needle in the haystack" searches for personalized treatments that have worked on patients with similar cancers.

Instead of going through chemotherapy that can kill healthy cells along with cancerous cells, personalized or "precision" medicine treats patients as individuals based on their specific genome sequencing.

Key to the cancer cloud is Intel's plan to make open-source its Trusted Execution Technology in the first quarter of 2016. The firmware allows server CPUs to exchange encrypted data, which in turn protects patient privacy.

Dr. Brian Druker, director of OHSU's Knight Cancer Institute, said the Trusted Execution Technology will allow healthcare centers to maintain control of patient data, while also allowing clinics around the world to exchange data for genomic analysis.

"If we're seeing 5,000 new cancer patients a year... many of them may get sequenced three or four times a year, we won't be able to ship all that data to a central location," Druker said. "And that's just cancer. We have all our Alzheimer's, MS patients and cardiac patients. We'll be sequencing 1,000 patients a day in our clinics."

Dishman, who went on to became an Intel fellow and the general manager of Intel's Health & Life Sciences Group, said the problem with his precision cancer treatment was that he first had to wait three months while computers analyzed his genome to find the flaw in his DNA that could be addressed. The second four months were taken up by clinics shipping hard disk drives with a terabyte of genomic data back and forth across the country to tailor Dishman's treatment.


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