SGI arms researchers with new high-tech weapons in global battle against cancer

Mountain View 06 January 2005Scientists around the world are pursuing new approaches to diagnosing and treating cancer with the help of breakthrough technologies from Silicon Graphics. Leading research institutions including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the National Cancer Institute, and Robarts Research Institute have turned to SGI computing, visualization and storage solutions to treat and potentially prevent some of the most lethal illnesses known to man.


Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, killing one in four Americans. The American Cancer Society estimates that, in the United States alone, nearly 1,4 million people were diagnosed with cancer in 2004, and 563.700 died of cancer-related illness. In 2003, United States cancer-related costs reached a staggering $189,5 billion, according to National Institutes of Health estimates.

"Across the globe, thousands of researchers are working to develop treatments that can reduce or even eradicate the devastating toll that cancer takes on patients and society at large", stated Warren Pratt, executive vice president and chief operating officer, SGI. "To maximize their chances of success, they have turned to some of the world's most powerful technologies to understand the impact of new treatments on organs, pinpoint what triggers tumour growth, or gauge the effectiveness of cancer-killing drugs. We are honoured that so many eminent research institutions rely on SGI solutions to assist them in this essential work."

Researchers around the world are pursuing breakthroughs in cancer-fighting medicine with SGI compute, visualization and storage systems. China Human Proteome Organization (CHPO), a member of Human Proteome Organization, is working to ultimately link liver-specific proteins to diseases such as hepatitis and liver cancer that could save hundreds of thousands of people dying from liver cancer. Scientists conduct analytical and biochemical research on liver samples to identify links between diseases and protein changes. Installed in September 2004, CHPO's solution includes an SGI Altix 3000 supercomputer powered by 32 Intel Itanium 2 processors and running the Linux operating system, SGI SAN solution and SGI InfiniteStorage Shared Filesystem CXFS, with two TP9300 storage devices, providing more than 40TB storage capability.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's (MSKCC) Computational Biology Center in New York is using a 12-processor SGI Altix 3000 system to accelerate its computational disease research, including the modelling and simulation of genes involved in cancer pathways. The MSKCC team uses the Altix system, which was installed in September 2003, in a "dry laboratory" that complements and strengthens traditional laboratory and clinical research. Researchers simulate what goes on in cells at the molecular level, and derive useful predictions from those simulations for disease states.

The National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Advanced Biomedical Computing Center (ABCC) in Frederick, Maryland, relies on a 64-processor Altix 3000 server, two eight-processor SGI Altix 350 servers, and a six-processor Altix 350 system. The installation is part of a growing list of SGI servers supporting the nation's pre-eminent scientists at NCI and the National Institutes of Health. ABCC researchers depend on the Altix system's scalability and its ability to handle large memory problems, such as modelling anti-cancer drug interactions with known tumour targets or analysing genomic data. The ABCC installed the Altix system in September 2003, using it to enhance its earlier installation of SGI servers. All servers have access to nine terabytes of shared disk space on two SGI TP9400 Fibre Channel RAID arrays, whose disk space is shared as a CXFS clustered filesystem.

In London, Ontario, the Virtual Augmentation & Simulation for Surgery & Therapy laboratory Robarts Research Institute is working to advance a broad range of medical procedures prostate cancer therapy, breast cancer biopsy, and other areas. The lab designs and implements the complex algorithms required for real-time 3D modelling of human organs, which then are subjected to virtual tests that can lead to new treatments and procedures of conditions from cancer and Alzheimer's Disease to stroke, diabetes and organ rejection. Key to these efforts are a 20-processor SGI Altix 3000 server, a dual-processor SGI Altix 350 server, and six terabytes of SGI InfiniteStorage disk.

At England's University of Manchester, surgeons view and manipulate 3D medical images of the very patients on whom they are operating while the operation is in progress. The work holds the potential for improving success rates on such procedures as the removal of cancerous tumours. Doctors use a standard laptop computer in the operating room to project and manipulate in real time a complex, three-dimensional image of a patient's organ while isolating the location of a needed biopsy. To generate the extraordinary processing power necessary to generate this imagery, Manchester surgeons rely on a Silicon Graphics Onyx2 visualization system housed in the university's supercomputing centre more than a mile away and networked into the operating room.

More SGI news is available in this VMW issue's article China Human Proteome Organisation selects SGI to help save hundreds of thousands of people dying from liver cancer.

Leslie Versweyveld

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