Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

Using Computer Science to Develop Personalized Cancer Treatments

April 10th, 2014 / in Uncategorized / by Shar Steed

Health IT_coverThe use of computer science is making significant contributions on improving the treatment of cancer. A recent New York Times article, highlighted how oncologists are using computer science to increase the scalability of personalized cancer treatments. Thirty years ago, sequencing a piece of DNA took years, now computer software can do the same job in seconds.

“The idea is simple. Oncologists will get a tumor biopsy and have its genome sequenced. They will identify the mutations in the cancer cells, and they will draw up a list of drugs to treat each patient’s particular mix of mutations.”

Although it’s possible to create personalized treatments, it is not yet scalable. There is a bottleneck because some mutations identified may be harmless and targeting them would be useless. Oncologists have to identify the mutations actually causing the cancer and understand how they work.

“Some cancer scientists are trying to open the bottleneck with the help of computers. They’re writing software that can read scientific reports and glean their insights.


The New York Genome Center has now joined this movement. It’s enlisting Watson, a computer developed by IBM that first came to fame in 2011 when it defeated human contestants on the game show “Jeopardy.”

Since its television victory, Watson has turned its attention to medicine. Its reading list include the study abstracts stored in Medline, a federal government index.”


Still, Heidi L. Rehm, a molecular geneticist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said that computers alone would not deliver personalized cancer treatment. “It’s necessary — but it’s not sufficient,” she said. “It’s only as good as the data going in.”

CCC has a number of initiatives involving applying advances in computing research to healthcare.


Using Computer Science to Develop Personalized Cancer Treatments

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