Friday, 18 September 2015 13:36

SGI supercomputer used in ‘game changing’ cancer research

SGI supercomputer used in ‘game changing’ cancer research Image courtesy of samarttiw,

Scientists at the Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC) in Denmark have used advanced genetic algorithims processed on a SGI supercomputer to discover how genetic diseases such as cancer systematically attack the networks controlling human cells.

By developing advanced algorithms to integrate data from quantitative mass-spectrometry and next generation sequencing of tumor samples, the scientists at the Linding Lab within the BRIC at the University of Copenhagen, have been able to uncover cancer related changes to phospho-signaling networks at a global scale.

The studies are some of the early results of the strategic collaboration between SGI and the Linding Lab at UCPH, and the landmark findings have been published in two back-to-back papers in Cell journal.

Since the human genome was sequenced more than a decade ago, cancer genomics studies have dominated the life sciences worldwide and have been extremely successful at identifying mutations in individual patients and tumors. However, using this knowledge to develop improved cancer therapies has been severely hampered by the inability of researchers to explain and relate this data to proteins: the targets of most pharmaceutical drugs.

Using the SGI UV server platform and Intel Xeon processors, researchers from the Universities of Copenhagen, and at Yale, Zurich, Rome, and Tottori (Japan) have unraveled how mutations such as those acquired in cancer, target and damage the protein signaling networks within human cells on an unprecedented scale.

"This new breakthrough allows researchers to identify the effects of mutations on the function of proteins in cancer for individual patients, even if those mutations are very rare," said Professor Dr. Rune Linding, lead researcher on the projects from the BRIC.

"The identification of distinct changes within our tissues that help predict and treat cancer is a major step forward and we are confident it can aid in the development of novel therapies and screening techniques.

“In these studies we simulated more than 2.5 million different computer models to find the optimal parameters to interpret cancer genomes. This is a vast computational and big data challenge that requires an extreme degree of computational flexibility.

"There is going to be more and more data available to us, and as scientists trying to lower the cancer burden, technology like SGI's UV system can make sense of all this data. This technology is a real game changer and these findings are a significant discovery from life sciences using a supercomputer, which we hope will make a difference for cancer patients world-wide."

SGI president and CEO, Jorge Titinger, said the studies highlight the importance of big data in cancer biology and underpin the essentiality of large dynamic-range computing platforms such as the SGI UV - SGI's UV server platform offers unique capabilities for research computing, well beyond what is commonly possible with commodity computing hardware. The SGI UV line combines industry-leading shared-memory designs with unmatched data performance capabilities, making it the ideal choice for big data research workflows.

"Thanks to the power of the technology in our supercomputers, SGI supports a broad range of fascinating and history-making research projects that will leave a strong mark in the life sciences and on the medical science community," Titinger said.

"We are honored to be a part of such a monumental research program and are looking forward to continuing to provide the computing power the Linding Lab requires to dive deeper into understanding cancer through genomic research."


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).



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