Medical Innovations

Researchers use cloud
technology to combat cancer


Cloud computing services provided over grid technology are helping to treat cancer patients in Europe where the disease is region’s second biggest cause of morality.

Cancer is one of the most difficult diseases to treat. There are dozens of therapeutic protocols designed to respond to the vast diversity of cases that confront doctors.

Radiotherapy has proven a particularly effective treatment. Here a linear accelerator, or Linacs, attacks the cancer directly by delivering radiation from several directions. But treatment is complex. The direction, size and duration of dosages are all tailored to each case, and must be recalculated every time via simulation.

It is a phenomenally complicated computation, requiring lengthy processing time, so much so that it can mean delays and this has the knock-on impact of lowering the number of patients who can be treated by each Linacs machine.

Faster diagnoses would help, but the required computing power is expensive, dramatically increasing the Linacs installation and operation costs. It is a critical bottleneck.

But European researchers working closely with industry appear to have found a solution.

Cloudy strategy

The the BEinGRID project uses a cloud computing solution for radiotherapy which uses a computer grid. This type of infrastructure can share out resources like processors, storage, networking and software, wherever they are and on whatever platform.

Grids can deliver on-demand hardware and software, and because they are combined into a super system, they offer much more power at lower cost.

The individual elements of the system are hidden in the cloud, invisible to the user. The new RadiotherapyGrid delivers two services: treatment plan verification and search. The search function is optimised to provide alternative treatment plans based on the patient scan, treatment prescriptions and other constraints.

Both services can run in the background. The doctor simply enters the details in a browser window, and is alerted by email when the results are ready. Security and Service Level Agreements (SSLAs) are a particular focus of the RadiotherapyGrid.

Grids excel at delivering these kinds of benefits, because they ensure that resources are used to the maximum of their capacity. Security can be guaranteed because the computers on the grid behave like a single supercomputer.

Better and cheaper

The upshot is that doctors can call on enormous computing resources without paying the full costs. It offers better performance, delivering faster results, and only when the service is required. Hospitals do not have to pay when the machines are idle.

Andrés Gómez Tato, a BEinGRID Business Experiment manager from CESGA, one of BEinGRID’s partner, commented: “The system can also be extended and adapted, to use new algorithms when new techniques and protocols are developed.”

The BEinGRID partners in the radiotherapy application are now looking to exploit the service commercially, and they believe the market is very promising. Initially, the RadiotherapyGrid will be primarily marketed as a ‘software-as-aservice’ platform, but ultimately it may also come with hardware.

Moreover, the RadiotherapyGrid could be applied to other treatment modalities, like the Image Guided Radiotherapy (IGRT), hadrontherapy or brachiatherapy. – ICT Results

ate of upload: 20th June 2010

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