Dell puts cloud-computing muscle behind personalized cancer trial

As genetic analysis gobbles up large chunks of computing capacity, Dell ($DELL) has given away cloud computing tech to support research of personalized cancer treatments for kids with neuroblastoma. The donation provides more than a tenfold improvement in computing capacity for the trial, in which computers are used in the analyses of patients' tumor data in order to help doctors pick the best combo of drugs to attack each patient's cancers.

Neuroblastoma, which grabs ahold of 1 in 100,000 children, is a hideous form of cancer. It hijacks the part of the nervous system that directs vital functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and digestion--and it's responsible for 1 in 7 cancer deaths in children, according to the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium's release. Three years after diagnosis, about 97% of children with the cancer die, InformationWeek reported. With each tumor wired differently, there's no one treatment that can benefit all patients with the cancer. The NMTRC has begun a small clinical trial in which genomic analyses of tumor samples will help match patients with the most appropriate drugs.

The Dell-donated computing cluster for the trial will be housed at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, where software developed by the Van Andel Research Institute will be used to analyze tumor data of the 14 children with late-stage neuroblastoma who are enrolled in the study, Scientific American reported. Eleven trial sites plan to connect to the same computing cluster and use the analysis software for patients in the study, according to the article. This also will help doctors to share information on study findings and expand the trial to additional sites.

"When a kid is diagnosed with this cancer, it's hit or miss with drugs to try," Jamie Coffin, vice president and general manager of Dell's healthcare and life sciences business, told InformationWeek. "The use of genomics analysis could help calculate the best cocktail of drugs to try for a particular child."

Dell says that the donation of the computing cluster and its manpower are worth millions of dollars and are part of the company's philanthropic foundation called Dell Powering the Possible.

- here's the release
- read InformationWeek's report
- and the piece in Scientific American