Ohio Supercomputing Center and partners are developing cancer microscopy and a micro-array database

Columbus 31 October 2008Researchers in Columbus, Ohio, and Los Angeles are collaborating on a groundbreaking effort that, when fully implemented, will allow health care experts around the world to have comprehensive information about a patient's tumour at their fingertips.


Led by the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), the Virtual Microscopy to Microarray project, or VM2M, aims to bridge the worlds of pathology, genetics and medical treatment. These data are necessary to implement "personalized medicine", the growing approach of tailoring treatment to the individual and delivering the right dose of the right therapy to each patient. To be effective with these targeted and less toxic therapies, specialists require quick access to genetic information about the patient's tumour and the specific cancer type.

"VM2M will pair high quality microscopy scans of tumours with their specific genetic code, or micro-array, and make the information available through a secure on-line data repository", stated Dave Billiter, director, Research Informatics Core, Nationwide's Center for Childhood Cancer.

Three main components comprise VM2M: high quality digital microscopy scans of tumours, micro-arrays of the same tumours that detail their specific genetic code, and the new underpinning technology - software, data storage, and network access - that enables viewing the two simultaneously.

The Center for Childhood Cancer at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital developed custom computer software that allows multiple pathologists to quickly, simultaneously and securely review, via the Internet, digitally formatted, diagnostic-quality microscopy scans of diseased tissue with the corresponding molecular expression data. Virtual microscopy scans are paired with each sample's genetic code, or micro-array, created by Dr. Timothy Triche at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

High-resolution images and data from just 100 patients could easily fill the hard drive on a typical PC, and a comparative analysis of that data on a PC could take a day or more. The Ohio Supercomputer Center provided a secure repository and hosted the development platform during the project's first phase, which allowed the group to prototype the research project's concept.

"We're extremely pleased to be involved in this collaborative effort through our Blue Collar Computing programme", stated Ashok Krishnamurthy, senior director of research at the Ohio Supercomputer Center. "OSC's powerful data management and networking resources enabled storing, organizing and retrieving this memory-intensive information."

The collaborators are now exploring the next phase of development for VM2M, by moving into a production-supported environment.

"Once the virtual microscopy field receives FDA approval, clinicians will be able to utilize the VM2M platform for diagnosis. This will optimize the process of patient diagnosis, review and treatments that are most appropriate for each individual", Dave Billiter stated.

Funding for the Virtual Microscopy to Microarray project was championed by Congresswoman Deborah Pryce and Congressman Ralph Regula and awarded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services through the Ohio Board of Regents.

Ranked in the top 12 on U.S. News & World Report's 2007 list of "America¬??s Best Children's Hospitals", Nationwide Children's Hospital is one of the United States' largest paediatric health care networks providing wellness, preventive, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative care for infants, children, adolescents and adult patients with congenital disease. A medical staff of nearly 900 and a hospital staff of 6000 provide state-of-the-art paediatric care for more than 700.000 patient visits annually.

As home to the Department of Pediatrics of The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Nationwide Children's Hospital physicians train the next generation of paediatricians and paediatric specialists. The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital is one of the top 10 National Institutes of Health-funded free-standing paediatric research facilities.

Celebrating more than 20 years of service, the Ohio Supercomputer Center is a catalytic partner of Ohio universities and industries that provides a reliable high performance computing and high performance networking infrastructure for a diverse statewide/regional community including education, academic research, industry, and state government. Funded by the Ohio Board of Regents, OSC promotes and stimulates computational research and education in order to act as a key enabler for the state's aspirations in advanced technology, information systems, and advanced industries.

Leslie Versweyveld

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