At a press conference in New York City today, Dell unveiled a commitment to a project that, with help from massive computational resources, will help fight childhood cancer. Specifically, Dell will install 8.2 teraflops worth of cloud servers at the TGen Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix, Arizona to help with sequencing tumor genomes that can then used to select a personalized therapy for each child. Moreover, the genomes are kept in a database that is used by subsequent patients to compare their cancer DNA to those of others. The institute is currently capable of performing the molecular characterization and DNA comparison for each patient, but the process takes weeks. The new computers should bring this process down to hours, a significant breakthrough when fighting aggressive cancers.
The FDA has already given the go ahead for a clinical trial involving 14 kids with neuroblastoma, a rare cancer with difficult to identify treatment options. This will be the first FDA approved trial using molecular-guided individualized therapy and so, in a sense, it will herald a groundbreaking in this exciting field.