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Fighting cancer: how Intel and computational power can save lives

Eric Dishman

More power makes it faster for doctors to sequence cancer genomes

Many technology companies talk about their aim of making the world a better place. It’s usually very aspiration stuff about how computers can change the lives for some of the poorest people in the world, but it’s usually a little lacking in detail and solid facts.

At IDF 2013, Intel showed how technology and incredible computation power really could make a difference with cancer care. Specifically, the company demonstrated the difference customised health care could make.

In college, Eric Dishman was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease and only given a short amount of time to live. Over two decades he managed to keep living, even though he “had more predictions of my death than even Moore’s law”.

The difference came, when he went to a genome company, which asked if it could sequence his tumour. After agreeing, his follow up meeting with his doctors resulted in them telling him that 90 per cent of the drugs that they had given him were never going to work, and that his cancer had been misdiagnosed and mismanaged for 20 years.

The genome sequencing told the doctors that Dishman’s cancer was related to pancreatic cancer and changing drugs could help. Four months later he went for a scan and was told his cancer was completely gone.

Dishman now argues that it’s a matter of scale and getting the technology that saved him into more people’s lives would allow for customised health care that would really make a difference. With most doctors wanting to use genome sequencing every two weeks, one of the limiting factors is computational power: something that Intel is well-placed to help deliver.

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