Roche, pharma slice and dice DNA data to exploit cancer weaknesses

The long campaign to beat cancer has become, on many fronts, a cyber war. As Reuters reports, Roche ($RHHBY), Eli Lilly ($LLY) and other major outfits in oncology view tech tools as important to understanding the genetic drivers of cancer and their efforts to develop new drugs.

"We are starting to harvest the knowledge that we gained through the sequencing of the human genome, our understanding of human genetics, disease pathways. We've got new tools that we can use in the laboratory to help us get to an answer much, much faster," John Lechleiter, Lilly's CEO, said, as quoted by the news service.

Efforts such as the Cancer Genome Atlas project, a huge endeavor to to explore the DNA code of tumors, have benefited from dramatically from falling prices of genomic sequencing and amassed a tsunami of data. Information technologies such as cloud computing have played a crucial role in storing and sharing the massive amounts of data, and software tools have become indispensible in mining the data for patterns and potential gene targets for new drugs.

"Many labs can now generate the data but fewer people or labs have the expertise and infrastructure to analyze it--this is becoming the bottleneck," Gad Getz, who leads cancer genome analyses at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, told Reuters.

Roche, the provider of such cancer drugs as Avastin and Herceptin, has gathered massive amounts of data from experiments such as those to test how cancer cells in a lab react to compounds and sequencing projects, the news service reports. And this required the drugmaker to pump millions of euros into IT to support those efforts, with the company eyeing further investment in cloud computing to tap external troves of cancer information.

The bottom line: computers have become more important to the war on cancer than ever before, and leading companies are investing in new tech tools to help advance new therapies against tumors.

- check out Reuters' article