I have written an article for ComputerWeekly.com on how big data and genomics are combining to treat cancer, specifically by using the DNA of cancerous cells to help choose which medicines and treatments to use for a patient. Stratified medicine (using different treatments depending on the patient, rather than just the type and stage of cancer) is already a reality, particularly for breast cancer.
But a major trial offering a range of new treatments for advanced lung cancer – the National Lung Matrix Trial run by Cancer Research UK, NHS trusts and drug companies – looks set to take this concept significantly further.
However, there are technological challenges to overcome in handling big genomics data. According to Jim Davies, the chief technology officer of Genomics England:
The application programming interfaces (APIs) and abstractions of that data are still under development – there is a lot of work going on with global standards… we don’t yet have a definitive stable data management architecture…. We couldn’t stick it on Amazon’s cloud or Azure, as the default configurations of their machines will not match the requirements of the bigger genomic data.
Having said all that, Prof Davies and his colleagues don’t plan to let any of this stop them.