Thursday, 1 March 2012

Personalized medicine in pediatric cancer: a first clinical trial

In November 2011 the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC), supported by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), has started an interesting clinical trial that will apply next generation sequencing to provide a rapid personal treatment to pediatric patient affected by refractory neuroblastoma, a deadly form of childhood cancer.
The trial is testing the hypothesis that molecular aberrations in the tumors of individual patients can be identified in real time through genomic analysis to predict responsiveness to targeted therapies. This would allow researchers to predict which of the 150-200 available chemotherapy drugs will be most effective. This kind of genomic analysis is producing about 30Tb of data for a single patient, a huge amount of data that has to be rapidly shared within the Consortium researchers and clinicians to provide effective results. Since time is a crucial factor in fighting this type of pathologies, an adequate hardware infrastructure is required for the project to become reality.

Luckly Dell, as part of the "Powering the Possible" charitable program, has donated an huge platform that has increased the computational power of TGen center by about 12 times (see the reports by TGen and Dell itself). According to HPC (a site dedicated to cloud computing) this platform comprises Dell PowerEdge Blade Servers, PowerVault Storage Arrays, Dell Compellent Storage Center arrays and Dell Force10 Network infrastructure. It features 148 CPUs, 1,192 cores, 7.1 TB of RAM, 265 TB Disk (Data Storage) and all the necessary for cloud based applications.
According to Dell representative Jamie Coffin, with Tgen translational technology and the Dell cloud platform, work that used to take a year, can now be accomplished in two weeks and early results are reflecting success rates of 24-30%.

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