IBM Grid Helps Fight Against Breast Cancer

IBM, in conjunction with Oxford University has built a massive computing grid for breast cancer screening and diagnosis.

Buildings and bridges across the U.S. are adorned with pink ribbons in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In the battle against breast cancer, leveraging technology can provide powerful tools to enrich both quality of service and quality of life for patients.

IBM, in conjunction with Oxford University has built a massive computing grid for breast cancer screening and diagnosis - enabling for the first time, comparative analysis of digitized mammographies, software enhanced screening, and collaboration on a grand scale.

The project, dubbed eDiamond is spring boarding upon the technology and understanding obtained during a similar IBM sponsored research project at the University of Pennsylvania. A virtual photo album of mammography images is processed and stored in a massive grid to provide early screening, diagnosis, and more detailed information to battle the disease. IBM also claims that its solution frees up technicians to perform other duties.

By using commercially available solutions conformant to O.G.S.A (Open Grid Services Architecture) standards body and software specially developed by Mirada Solutions, of Oxford, U.K., IBM has established a first-of-its-kind infrastructure for treating the disease in its earliest stages - no matter when or where - by managing and federalizing data. Computer applications will also scrutinize results at the pixel level, bolstering the strength of the naked eye.

The backend of the system is powered by a cluster of p690 servers with grid-enabled versions of DB2 and WebSphere.

"This is another example of the grid computing model being chosen as the best way to tackle challenging problems with truly massive sets of data. Grids form the basis of a new type of supercomputer thats more flexible and accessible than its predecessors," said Illuminata Server Technologies Analyst, David Freund.

Prior to these developments, it was more difficult for medical professionals to uncover trends in historic information using traditional technologies - especially if a patients full medical record was not readily available.

Tom Hawk, IBMs General Manager for Grid computing told eWeek that harnessing computing power, "can have quite a profound impact on society and quality of life." He went on to say that IBM intents to "lash together" healthcare providers to allow for supplementary research, data sharing, and consolidation of institutional expertise.

Additionally, the Armonk, New York based company is working with key players in the medical imaging community to grid enable devices as the cost curve for the technology continues its journey downward. At the present time, a marginal number of healthcare institutions support digital imaging, although IBM estimates wide scale adoption will occur in roughly 2-3 years time.

This announcement comes on the heels of a Canadian study issued last month calling into question the benefit of mammograms, while a Swedish study published in August drew the opposite conclusion. Such an array of conflicted findings underscores the need to find alternative uses for todays technology.

October 18th is National Mammography Day. For more information on National Breast Cancer Month go to the American Cancer Societys and the NBCAM campaigns Web sites.