Quest for the Cure, Medical Advancements with Mellanox

Our Interconnected Planet

In the time that it takes me to write this blog, a scant hour, another 30 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Each year, it is estimated that more than 246,660 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and that more than 40,000 will die. The odds are sobering, approximately one in eight women in the U.S., will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In the Bay Area, the odds can be far more alarming, up to 20 percent higher than the national average.

As we enter October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, I can think of no better time to introduce a new topic to Our Interconnected Planet. Thus far, we’ve been focusing on how Mellanox solutions impact research in earth and planetary sciences. We would now like to add medical and health issues to the mix, taking our journey into the realm of medical research, health and advancements in both that improve the human condition, all with the help of Mellanox solutions.

Overall, the medical field continues to make strides, progressing in diagnosing, treating and the ultimate quest to cure cancer which remains the second leading cause of death in the U.S. For starters, women are beating breast cancer and joining the ranks of the 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. Further, breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. have been decreasing since 2000, after increasing for the previous two decades. They dropped by 7 percent from 2002 to 2003 alone.

Immunotherapy is one fast growing area of cancer research that is helping to improve survival rates. It involves developing therapies that use a patient’s own immune system to fight and kill cancer. The HER2 protein is overexpressed in nearly 25 percent of all breast cancer tumors and is associated with an aggressive for of the disease and poor prognosis. Researchers have shown that immune cells are less able to recognize and target cancer cells that express HER2 as breast cancer progresses into a more advanced and invasive stage. This suggests that strategies that can re-stimulate the immune system to recognize and target HER2 early during cancer development may be effective treatment options.

What all this boils down to is that researchers around the world are hard at work on vaccines for both secondary and primary prevention. All of this takes massive amounts of computational power, an area where Mellanox excels. In fact, all sorts of medical breakthroughs are possible. A group of researchers at the Center for Genome Architecture at Baylor College of Medicine used Mellanox to help collect the 1.2 billion letter genome of the West Nile virus. This has enabled scientists to come up with better ways to combat the deadly disease. According to Olga Dudchenko, post-doctoral fellow at Baylor, “Taking advantage of IBM POWER8 and Mellanox InfiniBand connect, we are now able to change the way we assemble a genome.”

This represents a game changer for researchers tackling the cancers and other diseases of the world. Stanford, a partner of Mellanox using our InfiniBand solutions, continues to make strides in the use immunotherapy for curing cancer. Another Mellanox partner, NVIDIA, has teamed with the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and several national laboratories on an initiative to accelerate cancer research with their power supercomputer based on the DGX-1 design, known as “SATURN-V”.  The initiative Cancer Moonshot aims to deliver a decade of advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment in just five years. The research efforts include a focus on building an Artificial Intelligence framework called CANDLE (Cancer Distributed Learning Environment), which will provide a common discovery platform that brings the power of AI to the fight against cancer.  Bottom line, Mellanox delivers the high performance interconnect for the “SATURN-V” system.

Dell and TGen are tackling pediatric cancer head on. Previously, an individual patient’s RNA analysis took seven days. Along with TGen and Dell, we had the modest goal to try and reduce that to five days knowing that with children in particular, even a day could mean the difference between life and death. Mellanox’s InfiniBand reduced the RNA-Sequence data analysis time for patients to only one hour! From seven excruciating days to just one hour. This accomplishment is at the heart of how Mellanox technology is going to help crush pediatric cancer.

An alarming 38.5 percent of people will have to fight some form of cancer in their lifetime. That means cancer touches everyone either directly or via a close family member. It also means that it is a priority for the medical field in general as they collectively drive relentlessly toward a cure.

A few years ago, I was at a charity event for HERs Breast Cancer Foundation that was honoring Dr. Mark Pegram, the first director of the Breast Cancer Oncology Program at Stanford Women’s Cancer Center. He is also the co-director of Stanford’s Molecular Therapeutics Program. I wanted to know – I think we all want to know – when will there be a cure for breast cancer? He told me, and I will never forget this, that the goal was to create a cure, a vaccine that will prevent breast cancer. Imagine, our children and our grandchild never knowing the fear of getting cancer or the horrors of fighting for their lives the way so many of us have. Imagine that we are the last generation to fear the big C.

So, with this hope and goal in mind, please follow along as we explore the lifesaving research and advancements in the field of medical and health.


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About Julie M. Dibene

Julieanne DiBene is the Senior Director of Marketing Communications at Mellanox. Prior to this, she was the Director of Marketing Communications with Micrel Inc., a semiconductor manufacturer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from San Jose State University.

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