Angelina Jolie used genomic sequencing to learn that she was highly likely to eventually develop breast cancer, allowing her to make an informed decision and get a double mastectomy. However, celebrities aren’t the only ones who can benefit from advanced genetic analysis – which is now much more affordable and accessible thanks to projects such as the Collaborative Cancer Cloud.
- Angelina Jolie: Survival through Personalized Cancer Data
- Expediting Healing with the Collaborative Cancer Cloud
- Spinning Up Your Own Cloud VPS Server
Angelina Jolie: Survival through Personalized Cancer Data
Angelina Jolie was told by her doctors in 2013 that she had a problematic variant of the BRCA1 gene that put her in an extremely high-risk category for breast cancer. In fact, it meant that her likelihood of developing the disease was a whopping 87%. Understanding how very real the threat of cancer was for her simply because of hereditary factors, Jolie opted to get a preventive double mastectomy – which effectively nullified her chances of getting the illness, dropping her to just 5% susceptibility.
DNA analysis of this type can now be achieved more rapidly and cheaply than in the past. That means patients can better understand their biggest health vulnerabilities, and doctors can better pinpoint the most effective treatments on a case-by-case basis.
By integrating revolutionary approaches to genetic testing with cloud hosting and artificial intelligence, drug firms are now able to release medications more quickly, and the pharmaceuticals are more likely to be effective.
Expediting Healing with the Collaborative Cancer Cloud
It’s no exaggeration that these technologies are saving lives. Take Eric Dishman, for instance. At 19, Eric found out that he had a virtually unknown form of kidney cancer. For more than two decades, he was essentially a guinea pig. None of the therapies that were attempted seemed to work. Finally, he had the opportunity to get his genome sequenced. Using the sequence, researchers were able to zero in on the gene that was the root source of the cancer, leading his physicians to the correct medications.
Now healed of his cancer, Dishman knows it was the technology that allowed for his almost miraculous recovery. “My doctors had never done anything with the genome sequence before,” he says. “It turns out that 92% of the drugs I had been on would never have worked, but they didn’t know that.”
The entire process to identify what drugs would work best for Dishman lasted the better part of a year – three months for specialists to look at his genetic information, plus four months to put his genome up against others with kidney cancer throughout the country for a broader set of data.
After 23 years of looking for a cure for his cancer, seven months was a drop in the bucket. However, Dishman was growing impatient and didn’t want others in his position to have to go through the same long wait. That’s why he helped create the Collaborative Cancer Cloud, a project sponsored in part by the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU).
The idea behind this initiative is to expedite the rise of what’s called precision medicine. The CCC allows partner organizations, such as cancer clinics and universities, to exchange and compare sequences, medical files, and lab information in a safe setting so that people are likelier to beat cancer before it takes their lives.
Dishman explains that this form of integrated, collective cloud has not been the standard in the healthcare industry. Instead, the major cancer hospitals across the planet “pool their data and make a little cloud where people come together and do research,” he says. “But the problem is that only about 4% of the data is available to look at.”
The idea behind the Collaborative Cancer Cloud is to open up all of the information to researchers and practitioners so that they can deliver the most suitable treatments to each person. That’s achieved by looking at how people with certain genetic sequences have responded to various drugs in the past.
None of the data contains any personally identifiable details, so it’s HIPAA-compliant; and all of the data that is sent is encrypted.
As of April 19, 2016, OHSU is collaborating with two other cancer research hospitals in the United States. The goal is to eventually expand the project internationally. Plus, the project doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to cancer but could eventually be used to find solutions for other serious illnesses, including muscular dystrophy.
Part of the challenge with utilizing patients’ specific genomes is that it can be incredibly time-intensive. Regardless of the speed and automation inherent to the technologies being used, there is still a fair amount of raw human analytic power that’s necessary. “One of the things that we saw is that the oncologists that were interested in viewing genomic medicine were so swamped trying to make the tech work that they were not seeing patients,” says Dishman. “One of the ways we measure our success is whether the oncologists can go back to being oncologists.”
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