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Cloud computing services help in the fight against cancer

Cloud storage solutions could be just what are needed to help in the fight against cancer.

While it is no secret that cloud computing services are making a big impact in the enterprise, many might not realize how truly powerful the technology is. While the cloud has been used for many unique endeavors in areas like gaming, recent news highlights how it is being leveraged in the fight to cure cancer.

Over a year ago, Mark Kaganovich, TechCrunch contributor and founder of SolveBio, made a bold claim that the cloud will cure cancer, explaining at the time that no one had been giving due consideration to computing's power to transform lives in the healthcare industry. However, he noted that more people are catching on to how the cloud can be beneficial in this sector, noting that related technological breakthroughs have transformed the data collection process.

"The cloud can help create a value network where researchers, doctors and entrepreneurs specializing in certain kinds of data gathering and interpretation can interface effectively and meaningfully," Kaganovich said. "The true value of the data will begin to be unlocked as it is analyzed in the context of all the other available data, whether in public clouds or private, secure silos. This massively integrated analysis will speed the transition from bleeding edge experimentation to standards as solutions and data interpretations move from early-adopter stage to the good-enough stage where they will compete on ease-of-use, speed and cost."

Now, over a year since Kaganovich made this bold claim, it appears that more industry players have jumped on board with his view of the power of cloud computing storage. In a Nextgov article from earlier this month, contributor Joseph Marks outlined how cloud technology could be just what was needed to help cure cancer. He reported that the National Cancer Institute has announced plans to sponsor three cloud pilots that will be used to further genomics research through data sharing. The reasoning behind this decision is largely based on the realization that the main barrier to gaining access to information about genetic information of cancer cells is technical in nature, rather than medical.

Gaining insight
The National Cancer Institute has realized that cloud storage solutions may be integral to cancer research, and has responded with its initiative to create public cloud pilots for large quantities of genomic data. Furthermore, the institute is reaching out for community input, requesting public responses detailing top challenges of managing such large-scale genomic data. The institute is also requesting input on what sort of data sets should be given priority for being made accessible through the pilot cloud storage programs. 

Nextgov also reported that the University of Chicago has already launched a cancer cloud, but it is yet to be determined if the school will apply to be one of the Cancer Institute's pilots. George Komatsoulis, interim director and chief information officer of the National Cancer Institute's Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology, told Nextgov that the institute is not yet sure where all the genomic information will ultimately wind up being stored. However, if any of the pilot clouds are successful, he explained that a private sector cloud data storage vendor could become interested in hosting the information in a way that is comparable to Amazon's Thousand Genomes Project, where researchers would pay a fee for access to these services.

"As genomic research into other diseases progresses, it's possible that information could be integrated into the cancer clouds as well," Komatsoulis told the source. "Cancer research is on the bleeding edge of really large scale data generation. So, as a practical matter, cancer researchers happen to be the first group to hit the point where we need to change the paradigm by which we do computational analysis on this data."