Advances in computer science and electrical engineering have accelerated progress in cancer research and cancer treatment to a level that was thought impossible to attain only a few years ago. While much of this research is being accomplished in laboratories that have “in-house” access to such advanced tools as supercomputers capable of performing trillions of operations per second, many people are unaware that a significant amount of such vital research is being carried out by those that have volunteered the use of their own home computers to assist in the fight against cancer. In this post, we will briefly review the concept known as “distributed computing” and how it is used in cancer research.
Since much cancer research involves the “crunching” of huge amounts of data into a data set which can analyzed, efficiently, computer scientists developed distributed computing as a method to “share” this workload over a network. In distributed computing, large blocks of data are broken down into “chunks” of only a few megabytes in size. These chunks are then transmitted via the Internet to any number of volunteers who have agreed to utilize their personal computer’s “down time” (when their computer is on but not otherwise busy) to analyze these chunks. The computer uses a special program that was previously downloaded and installed to analyze the data and, when it has completed its task, to return the processed data to its original source. The download-analyze-return process can then be repeated automatically as many times as necessary.
As mentioned above, the appeal of distributed computing in cancer research arises from the fact that anyone with a personal computer ans Internet access can make a real contribution to this complex, but necessary, research. All one need do is register with a cancer research site, download the analysis program, a black of data, and then simply let their home computer do the hard part. A sampling of sites that offer the opportunity to participate in cancer-related research include:
Help Fight Childhood Cancer
Neuroblastoma is the most common cause of deaths from solid-tumor cancers in children. Distributed computing research sponsored by Chiba University (Japan) is focused on detection and neutralization of proteins that may play a role in this cancer’s development, which could make this tumor more susceptible to current therapies such as existing-drug chemotherapy.
Help Conquer Cancer
Research at this site, which is sponsored by World Community Grid.org, concentrates on the use of a technique known as x-ray crystallography to determine the composition and shape of protein molecules that may be related to the development of future, more effective, cancer treatment strategies. Research focus at the institutions represented here is on all forms of cancer.
Although not specifically a cancer research project, the POEM (Protein Optimization with Energy Methods) project is concerned with discovering how protein molecules react with each other and with their environment. This may lead to methods that will speed the development of new drugs for the treatment of cancer and other diseases.
Wrapping things up, distributed computing offers a way to utilize one’s personal computer in a variety of worthwhile projects related to cancer research. Participation in these and other similar projects should be strongly considered as a way to contribute to this important research.
This article was written by Karl Stockton for the team at healthyhearing.com; they can provide immense assistance with their hearing health information.PS: Digging this story, news or review? Let us know! Comments open.
About Jakk: Jakk Ogden is a professional self-employed blogger and the founder / owner of Technology Blogged. 22, with a love for good writing, you'll find me playing 'Drag Racing' on my HTC One X and rocking a pair of Grado headphones. If you love technology, be sure to subscribe to my feed for unique editorials. Find me on Google+. View author profile.