Global information technology giant IBM Corp has launched a non-profit project utilizing the capacity of the World Community Grid to facilitate cancer research.
The World Community Grid -- a global effort that applies unused computing power of individual and business computers to help address the world's most difficult health and societal problems -- was first introduced by IBM in the US in November, 2004, along with 213 representatives of other science, educational and philanthropic organizations.
The first project of the grid, according to IBM's Website, was the "Human Proteome Folding Pro-ject" dedicated to the study and application of systems biology. Since then, the grid has arranged research projects in several areas, including the "Smallpox Research Grid," "FightAIDS@Home," as well as the most recent "Help Defeat Cancer" project -- which was organized by IBM, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Rutgers University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Yesterday, the company's Taiwan branch said that it hopes as many Taiwanese as possible can join the grid's latest effort, called the "Help Defeat Cancer" project, to add more capacity to the research process.
The researchers have begun analyzing breast cancer and will soon proceed to evaluating protein and molecular expression patterns in head and neck cancers, according to the company.
The "Help Defeat Cancer" project has adopted a newly developed investigative technique, called tissue microarray, to compare therapies and combinations of treatments against various kinds of cancers and cancer subclasses, in order to prescribe optimal courses of treatment to cancer patients.
Through the use of the tissue microarray technique, researchers can now simultaneously examine specimens totaling up to 2,000 on a single biopsy slide. Meanwhile, arrays can also be digitized for computer-assisted cross-examination.
An IBM research fellow explained that within a general category of cancer, there are a number of subclasses, each of which requires a specific treatment or a combination of various treatments. Although the introduction of tissue microarrays has facilitated the biopsy process, running interactive evaluations among tissue microarray samples and cancer therapies is still beyond human ability or the capacity of a single super-computer, he added.
strength in numbers
Grid computing is thus required to manage such an enormous task, he said, adding that by pooling unused computer time of millions of individual users around the globe, the World Community Grid can complete in a single day computations that would take a single computer running continuously for 130 years to complete.
According to IBM tallies, 209,278 members with 385,031 computing machines have joined the World Community Grid so far, generating a run time totaling 51,760 years.