Integrated biomedical information for better health
Harnessing grid computing to fight disease
A future in which patients receive personalised treatment based on their genetic make-up is fast becoming a reality.
But the genomic and clinical techniques that makes personalised healthcare possible has left researchers wallowing in reams of medical data. Far too often, the amount of data they have gathered surpasses their ability to analyse the information and put it to good use.
To help overcome the information overload problem, the ACGT project has successfully created a computerised system to organise such data, opening the way for the medical sector to deliver more personalised services to patients and ultimately improve health care.
By making the process of data analysis faster and more efficient, ACGT’s system permits even more rapid advances in developing treatments for a variety of diseases.
Focusing on information gathered in clinical and genomic trials involving cancer patients, the ACGT researchers developed a technical infrastructure to support the efficient sharing of such knowledge.
Drugs fine-tuned to your genes
For example, such a system would help doctors to rapidly identify what form of treatment best suits which patient, even permitting drugs to be quickly developed that are fine-tuned to their needs.
Such personalised treatment promises to give doctors a better chance of giving patients the correct medication for their condition, as well as developing treatment plans in such a way that drug side effects and other complications are minimised.
Sharing and analysing data on the grid
The backbone of the infrastructure is grid computing, which harnesses the resources of multiple, dispersed computers to gather, analyse and share data.
The project’s biomedical grid infrastructure specifically allows doctors to identify cancer profiles and best treatments rapidly, although it could be used for any disease, or for research and trials.
In addition to creating the grid infrastructure, the ACGT team also developed new methods for cross-referencing medical terms and their biological contexts. They also created common standards for storing medical research information at each level of investigation.
In doing so, they addressed issues related to data sharing, including the legal and regulatory aspects.
Tested in clinical trials
Their system allows doctors to compare accurately the results of different clinical trials and lets researchers more rapidly search for information from multiple sources.
The project partners are currently using the system in clinical trials involving patients suffering from breast cancer and paediatric nephroblastoma, a rare kind of kidney cancer that affects children and is also known as Wilms’ tumour.
Their goal is to improve further upon the results obtained so far from the combination of clinical and genetic information, which in the case of treating paediatric nephroblastoma has resulted in a success rate of up to 85%.
Fields of science
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