An individualized approach to treating cancer: an Intel open source project | # WomenInTech


Big data and analytics are now providing a personal approach in the battle against cancer.

A prime example is the Collaborative Cancer Cloud is an initiative for Oregon Health Sciences University and Intel Corp. By using the open Platform-as-a-Service solution combined with precision medicine, the partners are seeking to elevate an institution’s ability to analyze vast amounts of patient DNA to treat cancer.

Mary Stenzel-Poore, senior associate dean for research at Oregon Health and Sciences University, was the recipient of one of the “Top 10 Women in Cloud” Innovation Awards for her contribution to the project. The awards are presented by CloudNOW, a nonprofit organization of prominent women involved in cloud computing and converging technologies, which supports women within the community.

Lisa Martin (@Luccazara), host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile live streaming studio, was on the ground during the CloudNOW 5th Annual “Top 10 Women in Cloud” Innovation Awards in Mountain View, California, and had the opportunity to speak to Stenzel-Poore about the collaboration and her role in the project(*Disclosure below)

This week, theCUBE highlights Stenzel-Poore in our Women in Tech feature.

Finding individual answers through big data

Oregon Health & Science University is an academic health center offering innovative patient care along with research and education opportunities for clinicians and biomedical researchers. Using precision medicine, based on genomics, researchers extract information from a big data platform to study an individual’s genetics, environment, and lifestyle to analyze the best treatment for the patient.

Genomics is the science of using a person’s complete set of DNA to look for genetic variations that increase the risk of specific diseases. Therefore, researchers are hoping to transform the medical landscape by using technology, such as cloud-based genomic analytics, to advance biomedicine.

Stenzel-Poore explained that the technology is vital due to the unique characteristics of cancer in each patient. Therefore, there is a need to compare data from one patient to millions of patient samples, helping researchers to find the best treatment options for the individual patient. As a result, the project is aiming to bring in more data from additional institutions and patients.

Using technology to break down barriers

Acting as the liaison between OHSU and Intel, Stenzel-Poore asserted that the pair is trying to solve the problem that occurs with precision medicine. Particularly significant is the ability to share data widely and securely, while maintaining patient privacy and control data. And while the demand for biomedical innovation is high, barriers that impede progress exist. Issues such as privacy and a patient’s willingness to share information due to a lack of trust with the technology are some of the barriers.

“OHSU and Intel took the opportunity to say we aren’t going to do business as we usually do. We are going to remove barriers to collaboration. We are not going to worry about who owns what. We are going to take on the most difficult problem, cancer, and provide a solution,” Stenzel-Poore said about her efforts to solve a problem that deters innovation.

Most noteworthy is that the joint effort resulted in the Collaborative Cancer Cloud, which Stenzel-Poore believes will allow institutions across the world to securely maintain patient privacy and uncover new treatments for cancer patients. The Collaborative Cancer Cloud will enable a global sharing of information by securely managing the patient’s information and control data at each institution’s site.

As with every industry, healthcare, more than any other field, is looking for rapid results. Intel is merging its technology with the advancements in bio-science to reduce the time it takes to develop a treatment plan from a few days to under 24 hours. Initially, the project will focus on cancer; however, Intel is working to create functionality that is user-friendly, quicker and more affordable for developers, researchers and clinicians to find lifesaving treatments of any disease with a genetic component.

A shift in culture paradigms

Taking on this project required changes in the way institutions think. It was no different for Stenzel-Poore who believes that her role in the project came about due to some progressive leadership.

“At OHSU we have many women in leadership positions … and we have a senior women’s leadership group of all women who have decided to take on the culture change we need to make sure not only are women in these positions, but that they are successful … and that the constituents that they lead see them as leaders. Women and men work together best if they are equal,” she said.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE and theCUBE’s coverage of the CloudNOW – 5th Annual “Top 10 Women in Cloud” Innovation Awards. (*Disclosure: Some segments on SiliconANGLE Media’s theCUBE are sponsored. Sponsors have no editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo by SiliconANGLE