Powering hope in childhood cancer trials

By Heather Wilson

“Within the next five years every patient diagnosed with cancer will want their tumor analyzed and sequenced. It means hope. It means options.”

This is one way Dr. Giselle Sholler, a pediatric oncologist, describes the near future in the video below.  Sholler was interviewed amongst other experts on the role of Dell technology in the battle against cancer and other diseases.

Thanks to a donation from Dell, high-performance computing clusters and analytics software are being used to process billions of pieces of genomic data, resulting in targeted care plans for patients with cancer. A process that used to take eight weeks now takes just two days, which means patients can start care plans sooner.

Experts in the video agree, genomics is advancing the treatment and prediction of disease in ways never thought possible, and Dell is at the forefront of this exciting future for healthcare.

It took more than a decade and about $2.7 billion to map the original human genome. Now, doctors can leverage faster computing speeds to sequence an individual’s genome for around $1,000.

Sholler says Dell technology fuels her team’s collaboration and efficiency—and her young patients’ hope. She describes her workplace – the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan – as a very busy place, teeming with medical activity and family emotions. This is the headquarters for the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC), which manages personalized medicine trials for childhood cancer in partnership with Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

These trials, powered by Dell technology, serve patients from 22 U.S. hospitals—children with rare cancers that have not responded to traditional treatments. Sholler directs these trials and is the chairwoman of the NMTRC.

“Our treatments are only as good as our predictions, and predictions are based on data,” said Dr. Sholler. “With personalized medicine, there’s so much data–the genomic data and unique treatment history for each patient, the possibilities of more than 200 medicines. The cloud-based portal allows me and my teammates from multiple hospitals to view and discuss the same data, to see what’s working and what’s not. And now we’re at a point where the system auto-populates our treatment plans, which increases accuracy and prevents error. These advancements save us so much time, which is a very valuable commodity with our patients.”

As Bryan Borzykowski reports in Forbes, the ultimate goal of faster genomic sequencing is longer lives. Dr. Sholler agrees.

Said Dr. Sholler, “These are patients whose families had viewed hospice as the only option. And now we have a 3-year-old whose tumor has shrunk by 75 percent, a treatment-responsive college student who hadn’t expected to graduate from high school, and others with increased quality of life. While we have much to learn and far to go, being able to deliver hope to patients, families and our team has been the most gratifying experience of my career.”

Dell’s Children’s Cancer Care program is one of Dell’s signature giving programs and an integral part of its 2020 Legacy of Good Plan, Dell’s long-term strategy for putting our people and technology to work where they can do the most good for our customers, our communities, our people and the planet.

In this video, Dell’s Deb Bauer talks about how the program was inspired by the work of NMTRC and TGen. Bauer describes the ability for Dell to impact healthcare in such a powerful way – and empower researchers and doctors to provide personalized treatment plans sooner – as “real magic.”

To learn more about Dell’s progress on its Dell 2020 Legacy of Good Plan, visit www.dell.com/legacyofgoodupdate.

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