IBM world community grid squeezes decades of cancer research into 2 years

Nov 06, 2007

Canadian researchers expect to accelerate the war on cancer by tapping into a global network of hundreds of thousands of people who volunteer their idle computer time to tackle some of the world’s most complex problems.

The research team, led by Dr. Igor Jurisica at the Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI), and scientists at Princess Margaret Hospital and University Health Network, are the first from Canada to use the World Community Grid, a network of PCs and laptops with the power equivalent to one of the globe’s top five fastest supercomputers.

The team will use World Community Grid to analyze the results of experiments on proteins using data collected by scientists at the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute in Buffalo, New York. This analysis would take conventional computer systems 162 years to complete. However, using World Community Grid, Dr. Jurisica anticipates the analysis could be finished in one to two years, and will provide researchers with a better way to study how proteins function, insight that could lead to the development of more effective cancer-fighting drugs.

“We know that most cancers are caused by defective proteins in our bodies, but we need to better understand the specific function of those proteins and how they interact in the body,” said Dr. Jurisica. “We also have to find proteins that will enable us to diagnose cancer earlier, before symptoms appear, to have the best chance of treating the disease -- or potentially stopping it completely.”

The research team now has more than 86 million images of 9,400 unique proteins that could be linked to cancer, captured in the course of more than 14.5 million experiments by colleagues at Hauptman-Woodward.

This comprises the most comprehensive database on the chemistry of a large number of proteins, a resource that will help researchers around the world unlock the mystery of how many cancers, such as breast, prostate or childhood leukemia, grow.

Approximately 150,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 70,000 will die of the disease in 2007 alone.

Individuals can donate their computers for this project by registering on www.worldcommunitygrid.org , and installing a free, secure, small software program on their computers. The computer requests data from World Community Grid’s server when it is idle, for example a user is at lunch, and performs the cancer-related protein computations. A screen saver will tell individuals when their computers are being used.

World Community Grid, the largest public humanitarian grid with more than 333,000-plus members and links to more than 780,000 computers. However, it’s estimated that there are one billion computers worldwide, underscoring the potential for the grid and its computational power to significantly expand. Eight projects have been run on World Community Grid to date, including protein folding and FightAIDS@Home, which completed five years of HIV/AIDS research in just six months. Additional projects are in the pipeline.

Source: Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute

Explore further: Suboptimal prescribing attitudes could signal personal distress

Related Stories

Pro-Saudi hackers seize Iran TV's social media accounts

1 hour ago

Hackers took over the social media accounts of Iran's Al-Alam television Sunday and posted material supportive of the Saudi-led air war against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, the Arabic-language channel said.

Subzero learning environment enabling avalanche research

1 hour ago

A recent article about avalanche research in Popular Science referred to the effort toward knowing more about the avalanche in its subhead as "snowslide science," and the article was about the interesting lab wo ...

China orders media giant Sina to 'improve censorship'

10 hours ago

China's government has threatened to shut down Sina, one of the country's most popular news websites unless it "improves censorship", state media reported, in a rare public glimpse into controls over the ...

Recommended for you

Selecting the right tool for the job

Apr 14, 2015

Randomized clinical trials of new drugs have long been considered the "gold standard" in determining safety and efficacy before drugs, biologics, vaccines or devices are introduced to the general public. However, in the case ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.