Dell launches cloud technology platform, targeting treatment for pediatric cancer


NEW YORK – Dell on Thursday launched a cloud computing technology to support pediatric cancer research programs, including what’s billed as the world’s first personalized medicine trial for pediatric cancer, conducted by the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC) and supported by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

TGen will use its genomic technology within Dell’s donated cloud to help NMTRC identify a greater depth of personalized treatment strategies for children with neuroblastoma who are enrolled in NMTRC’s clinical trial.

“Even at this earliest moment in genomics-guided therapy, there is universal recognition that the amount and complexity of data is overwhelming,” said Jeffrey M. Trent, president and research director of TGen and VARI. “Dell’s commitment to helping children with cancer, coupled with its expertise in developing cloud-based solutions for health information, will provide great benefit in terms of helping us manage the massively complex data generated by this clinical trial. This will help physicians and scientists share information rapidly, and is designed to help us arrive at the optimal treatment decision for each child battling cancer.”

Officials say Dell is expanding its Powering the Possible program to focus on neuroblastoma and other pediatric cancers because of the devastating nature of the disease and to address the void of new and innovative treatments available for children.

Since the 1980s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only one new treatment for any type of childhood cancer, compared with 50 approved treatments for adult cancers in the same time period. Through Powering the Possible, Dell is making a multi-year, multi-million dollar commitment of funds and employee volunteerism to support innovative pediatric treatment programs globally.

“For far too long, children with pediatric cancer have relied on the hand-me-down adult cancer treatments which are brutally harsh and, in many cases, more punitive than curative for children. We’ve given them to kids because something is better than nothing,” said Patrick Lacey, co-founder and president of Friends of Will Cancer Foundation. “And now, thanks to innovative doctors and Dell’s incredible support, kids will finally get a chance at treatment designed to improve their lives and survival. They don’t have to settle for brutal and ineffective therapy as status quo any longer and they have a chance to trail blaze the way to more effective and less toxic therapy for everyone with cancer.”

Neuroblastoma strikes one in 100,000 children annually, usually before the age of 5, and despite it being so rare, it is so deadly that it is responsible for one in seven pediatric cancer deaths. It attacks the sympathetic nervous system, which controls heart rate, blood pressure and digestion, with aggressive tumors that are unique to each child.

In fact, it is the unique and aggressive nature of neuroblastoma tumors that render ineffective conventional approaches to developing a blockbuster, one-size-fits-all treatment to the disease. With little commercially or federally funded research underway because of its small patient base, parents and pediatric oncologists have relied largely on “trial and error” in their search for a treatment that will work from among the hundreds of available adult cancer trials.

To overcome these challenges, parents and physicians and scientists from the NMTRC, the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) and TGen have teamed to launch the world’s first personalized medicine clinical trial investigation for pediatric cancer. The trial, funded primarily by parents of children with neuroblastoma and their foundations, is based on research from a group of collaborating investigators who are developing a personalized medicine process that is intended to permit near “real time” processing of information on patient tumors and prediction of best drugs for a specific patient.

This process generates more than 200 billion measurements per patient that must be analyzed, shared and stored. Unfortunately, the computation and analysis of this information can take weeks to months to process and the magnitude of this task has limited the depth and number of pediatric cancer patients who can be included in this groundbreaking clinical trial.

Dell’s donated cloud solution will provide needed computing power to help increase TGen’s gene sequencing and analysis capacity by 1,200 percent and improve collaboration between the team of physicians, genetic researchers, pharmacists and computer scientists working on the trial.

Specifically, scientists and physicians will use the donated cloud to investigate new technologies that accelerate genetic analysis and identification of targeted treatments for each patient from months to days. The additional computing power will also improve the availability of critical information and allow researchers to develop a real-time knowledge repository of the latest findings on the most effective treatments for oncologists to use globally.

The researchers also intend to use the donated cloud to expand the program’s participation from a handful of children today to hundreds of children over the next three years, with the goal of establishing an information framework that, subject to regulatory approval, could one day help thousands of pediatric cancer patients. The new TGen cloud will also facilitate rapid transfer of information to international partners and lay the groundwork for expansion of the trial to additional types of childhood cancers in the future.

NMTRC is now enrolling patients in the first stages of this personalized medicine trial. Participating medical centers include:

  • The Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Levine Children’s Hospital, Charlotte, N.C.
  • M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Orlando, Fla.
  • National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md.
  • SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, St. Louis, Mo.
  • Children’s Mercy Hospital and Clinics, Kansas City, Mo.
  • Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford, Conn.
  • Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Ore.
  • Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego, Calif.
  • The Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, S.C.

“This trial offers hope to those children facing what is among the worst of all pediatric cancers,” said Giselle Sholler, MD, chair of NMTRC and co-director of VARI’s Pediatric Cancer Translational Research Program. “We are confident the genomic-based personalized medicine approach is the right one, and Dell’s contribution will help remove barriers that currently exist in how rapidly and easily we can analyze and share information to benefit our patients.”

“It’s time to do more for the children and families battling pediatric cancer,” said Paul Bell, president of Dell Public and Large Enterprise and chairman of Dell’s Strategic Giving Council. “And pediatric cancer is an area where Dell can address an unmet medical need and our people and technology can make an immediate and lasting difference. We hope TGen’s new cloud will help pediatric oncologists develop new ways to eliminate the trial and error in the treatment for pediatric cancer patients for whom every day matters.”