Big Data in Genomics and Cancer Treatment

Big Data in Genomics and Cancer Treatment by Tanya Maslyanko.

From the post:

Why genomics?

Big data. These are two words the world has been hearing a lot lately and it has been in relevance to a wide array of use cases in social media, government regulation, auto insurance, retail targeting, etc. The list goes on. However, a very important concept that should receive the same (if not more) recognition is the presence of big data in human genome research.

Three billion base pairs make up the DNA present in humans. It’s probably safe to say that such a massive amount of data should be organized in a useful way, especially if it presents the possibility of eliminating cancer. Cancer treatment has been around since its first documented case in Egypt (1500 BC) when humans began distinguishing between malignant and benign tumors by learning how to surgically remove them. It is intriguing and scientifically helpful to take a look at how far the world’s knowledge of cancer has progressed since that time and what kind of role big data (and its management and analysis) plays in the search for a cure.

The most concerning issue with cancer, and the ultimate reason for why it still hasn’t been completely cured, is that it mutates differently for every individual and reacts in unexpected ways with people’s genetic make up. Professionals and researchers in the field of oncology have to assert the fact that each patient requires personalized treatment and medication in order to manage the specific type of cancer that they have. Elaine Mardis, PhD, co-director of the Genome Institute at the School of Medicine, believes that it is essential to identify mutations at the root of each tumor and to map their genetic evolution in order to make progress in the battle against cancer. “Genome analysis can play a role at multiple time points during a patient’s treatment, to identify ‘driver’ mutations in the tumor genome and to determine whether cells carrying those mutations have been eliminated by treatment.”

A not terribly technical but useful summary and pointers to the use of Hadoop in connection with genomics and cancer research/treatment. It may help give some substance to the buzz words “big data.”

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