Oxford University, IBM, and British Government build eDiamond Grid for breast cancer screening and diagnosis

Oxford 14 October 2002Oxford University has joined with IBM and the British Government to build a sophisticated computing Grid that will enable early screening and diagnosis of breast cancer, and provide medical professionals with more information to help treat the disease. The project, which represents an investment of approximately $6 million jointly by IBM and the United Kingdom, has been named "eDiamond" by Oxford researchers and is part of the British government's eScience initiative.


eDiamond will be the first Grid built entirely with commercially available technology, including a first-of-its-kind software developed by Mirada Solutions to standardise new and existing digital mammogram images. This capability will help radiologists accurately compare and evaluate mammography scans stored on eDiamond, no matter where or when they were created. eDiamond is expected to create a new model for assembling computing and data storage infrastructures for scanning, storing, and analysing mammograms.

"I am delighted that this collaboration between leading academics, IBM, and Mirada, funded jointly by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and IBM, has led to the development of a project that could have such a direct benefit to society", stated Lord Sainsbury, UK minister for Science. "The eDiamond programme, part of the United Kingdom's 118 million Pounds Sterling e-Science initiative, will improve the detection of breast cancer and increase the efficiency of its subsequent treatment."

"The British government recognises the importance of projects such as this and we have recently increased our investment in science. By 2005-2006, we will have increased the investment in our science base by 1,25 billion Pounds Sterling per year compared with this year. This project shows that investment in knowledge transfer enables effective partnerships between companies and universities or research institutes", continued Lord Sainsbury.

Patients, physicians, and hospitals will benefit from better and faster access to more reliable and accurate mammogram images, thereby potentially increasing early cancer detection and the number of lives saved. "We are applying the vast computing power of a Grid to create a massive digital photo album of mammogram scans available to medical experts across the United Kingdom", stated Nicholas M. Donofrio, senior vice president, technology and manufacturing for IBM. "The on-demand processing and storage capabilities of eDiamond will enable our most advanced technologies to personally and positively impact people more than ever before. The results of this project could transform breast cancer screening in the future and save lives."

The eDiamond Grid represents an investment in the future of Grid technology in the United Kingdom and is made possible through a joint investment by IBM and the British Government, valued at approximately $6 million or 4,2 million Pounds Sterling. IBM's contribution includes servers, storage systems, workstations, and other computing hardware furnished through a grant from its Shared University Research (SUR) programme. Oxford also plans to integrate middleware and other software products provided via IBM's Scholars programme.

In addition to enabling hospitals to store and share mammograms in digital form, the eDiamond Grid will provide physicians with advanced analytical tools and capabilities to better diagnose cancer in patients. Mammogram images will be datamined, allowing physicians to develop new forms of treatment by conducting in-depth studies to determine the impact of environment and lifestyle on the development of breast cancer.

The Grid also is expected to help reduce the rate of false-positive diagnosis, overcome the challenge of inconsistent image formats and lost films which prevent proper diagnosis, while also allowing physicians to study and compare similar cases so they can develop better treatment options. The eDiamond Grid will be developed with direct input from surgeons, radiologists, and other cancer specialists and will use hardware and software available today. Many previous Grid projects included heavily customised technologies.

IBM's DB2 and DiscoveryLink middleware will provide the advanced search and data mining capabilities and IBM WebSphere will enable file serving. IBM hardware powering the data Grid will include IBM's eServer pSeries and xSeries servers; TotalStorage FAStT500 storage servers and IBM Tape Library 3583; SAN Fibre Channel Switch; Netvista desktop computers; and IntelliStation workstations with T221 high-resolution flat screen monitors. The UK Mammography Grid will also be based on open protocols and will incorporate the Globus Toolkit as well as Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA) when available in 2003.

Initially, the Grid will link a large federated database of mammograms shared by St. Georges Hospital and Guy's and St. Thomas' NHS Trust Hospitals in London, the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, and the Breast Screening Centers in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland. The project potentially could be expanded to all 92 screening centres throughout the United Kingdom, creating the United Kingdom's first national digital mammography archive.

Regular reviews will occur throughout the project between the project team, the funding bodies, including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, IBM, and the Medical Research Council; the British Department of Trade and Industry; and the British National Health Service. The eDiamond Grid project required an industry and technology heavyweight to help turn the Grid from concept into a full-scale IT project. IBM's expertise in the deployment and delivery of large scale IT projects will be crucial if deployment is made to 92 cancer hospitals across the United Kingdom.

The project involves a three-way collaboration between IBM, the prestigious computer science and engineering departments at Oxford, and Mirada Solutions, a start-up company that has developed the intellectual property for the Standard Mammographic Form (SMF) that will be used in the project. The project also could be expanded to create a worldwide digital mammography Grid by linking up with screening programmes being developed in France, Germany, and Japan, as well as other similar Grid projects, including one underway in the United States with IBM and the University of Pennsylvania.

Mirada is the result of the "fusion" of two companies spun out from the Medical Vision Laboratory of the University of Oxford led by Professor Mike Brady, OXIVA, and OMIA. The Medical Vision Laboratory is a world class research centre that has been developing clinically proven technology for over a decade.

OXIVA and OMIA joined forces in 2001 to form Mirada Solutions, which stands for Medical Image and Radiology Analysis Solutions Ltd., to become the leading provider of medical image analysis algorithms. Based in Oxford in the United Kingdom and with commercial offices in Virginia, USA, and The Hague, The Netherlands, Mirada aims to position its technology at the service of OEM companies demanding a competitive edge to their medical imaging offering, and to address the direct needs of doctors requiring state of the art software packages to help address medical imaging problems not currently tackled by the imaging industry.

Leslie Versweyveld

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