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CIOs join forces to battle cancer

Stephanie Overby | May 30, 2014
Join forces with a seeming archrival to develop a data-sharing platform? Jay Ferro ... Ferro is the CIO of the American Cancer Society (ACS).

"Our goal is to end cancer," says Ferro. "If we're out of business because we've solved the cancer problem, we'll find other jobs. We'd love to put ourselves out of business."

Cancer Research May Be More Affordable in the Cloud
There's too much data for small labs to handle affordably. The answer may be putting petabytes in a central repository so more researchers have access.

as the volume of data generated by genomics-related cancer research technologies has grown, the storage, transmission and analysis of data has become too costly for individual labs and most small-to-midsize research organizations to handle. So the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is looking to the cloud to make access to large, valuable data collections and advanced computational capacity available to as many doctors and scientists as possible.

NCI says that, during a two-year pilot program, it will award up to $20 million to three cloud providers that can meet their technical and cost criteria. The ultimate goal is to build one or more clouds filled with data from the NCI's Cancer Genome Atlas and allow researchers to tap into it using data mining and analysis tools.

The Cancer Genome Atlas's current petabyte of data will grow, by the end of this year, to 2.5 petabytes of genomic information from 11,000 patients. Building the infrastructure to store all that would cost a research institution at least $2 million, according to Warren Kibbe, NCI's CIO and director of its Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology, making the task cost-prohibitive for many small colleges and other research institutions. By putting the data in the cloud, possibly using an on-demand pricing model, NCI may be able to expand the number of researchers working with the data, thereby speeding up genomics-based cancer research.

IBM's Watson Trained to Suggest the Best Cancer Treatment
Researchers, physicians and analysts at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have been training Watson, IBM's supercomputer, for more than a year to turn it into a decision-support tool that helps medical professionals choose the best treatment plans for individual cancer patients.

The goal is to improve quality of care for cancer patients no matter where they are located by giving their doctors access to the same up-to-date research as doctors at the nation's leading cancer centers. "Here at Sloan Kettering, our people are all sub-specialists. If you treat lung cancer, that's all you treat and you become very good at it," says Patricia Skarulis, the institute's CIO. "If you are doctor in a smaller community, you might see lung cancer one day, then breast cancer the next week, then a thoracic patient after that. It's hard to stay up-to-date on everything you need to know. We want to export our knowledge to the rest of the world through technology."


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