OSC and Ohio Medical Research Centers Receive Federal Funds for Pediatric Cancer Research

The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), along with three state medical centers, has received $350,000 for pediatric cancer research as part of the federal FY2004 Omnibus Appropriations bill.

This grant will be used to apply new techniques developed at the National Cancer Institute's Advanced Biomedical Computing Center (NCI-ABCC) to the study of children's diseases. Research results will accelerate the insight and understanding of cancer, leading to improved diagnostics, treatments and even new prevention options.

"Located in the heart of Columbus, the state-of-the-art Ohio Supercomputer Center has helped catapult our community into the competitive ranks of the high-tech world," said Representative Deborah Pryce (R-OH15), who is responsible for securing the targeted funding. "I'm confident this federal appropriation will tap into the great potential of OSC and its collaborating partners to conduct critical research on pediatric cancer."

The University of Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Medical Center, Medical College of Ohio in Toledo, and The Ohio State University Medical Center will participate in this one-year pilot project coordinated by OSC.

Dr. Stanley Ahalt, OSC Executive Director, said, "This grant is a major win for Ohio because the federal government has recognized the state as being a major contributor to cutting-edge biomedical and bioengineering research."

The project involves analyzing massive sets of demographic, biological, environmental and disease data from medical centers throughout Ohio. It will use methods researched and developed at NCI-ABCC to determine key factors contributing to juvenile disease.

NCI-ABCC, a government research facility that develops new computational biology technologies, has developed advanced techniques to identify unique features within DNA sequences. This will allow researchers to relate genetic fingerprints and health histories with disease onset and progression. These relationships are key factors in successful diagnosis, treatment and cure.

Researchers hope the new techniques and research performed at NCI-ABCC will help answer these types of questions.

"The collaborative aspect of this project is its primary strength because each of the research groups has a contributing specialty," said Stan Burt, Director of the Advanced Biomedical Computing Center at NCI-Frederick "We are glad the software we developed is being used in Ohio. Part of our mission to see this type of software support the research community."

"The leading research expertise and wealth of clinical data available at Ohio's medical research centers, combined with the NCI technology, will provide significant advances in understanding the fundamental genetic relationships of human disease," said Dr. Eric Stahlberg, OSC Senior Systems Manager.

Having access to "de-identified" demographic data allows researchers to draw correlations between factors when determining what causes diseases and who is likely to get them. Filling in the blanks with the targeted research required will fill critical voids in available disease information.

"OSC was chosen for this project because of its massive computational power and its ability to maintain the integrity of patient information. Information will come together at OSC, where we can safeguard personal data as well as crunch numbers with algorithms developed at NCI-ABCC," Ahalt added.

"Whether or not cancer happens is largely a result of what happens during the course of a person's lifetime," said Stahlberg. "Some things are more absolute than others, and some things are seemingly random. For instance, why does one person get lung cancer from smoking while another one doesn't?"

With the NCI-ABCC and the Ohio medical community working together, these issues can begin to be solved.

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