Lab Canada

$1M technology grant to accelerate study of childhood leukemia

Montreal, QC – IBM is awarding a grant valued at more than $1-million to Ste-Justine Research Centre to accelerate cancer research in personalized treatment for childhood leukemia and other complex pediatric diseases.

The IBM Shared University Research Grant will provide integrated technology systems, eliminating most manual data entry and analysis, and enabling researchers to get answers to questions in seconds rather than days.

Leukemia is responsible for 25% of all cancers in children of less than 14 years. While currently 80% of cases are cured with existing treatments, patients often suffer long-term side effects into adulthood. Through this research, Ste-Justine hopes to identify genes that modify an individual’s risk and response to therapy, and develop a better understanding of the interactions between drugs and genes and between genes and other genes in order to reduce those long-term side effects.

“Today our fundamental understanding of genetic susceptibility to disease is very limited, particularly in pediatrics,” says Dr Daniel Sinnett, doctor in molecular genetics, chairholder of the first Canadian chair in pediatric oncogenomics and associate professor at Universit de Montral. “To fully exploit the knowledge of the human genome we need to process information in new and complex ways. With IBM’s assistance we will be able to do that.”

Results expected within the next few years will enable researchers to gain a better understanding of illness, as well as causes and treatment methods. The results could also result in changes to policy and planning in the health sector. Ultimately, the information provided by the research will be used to provide clinicians with tools to better evaluate a patient’s condition and which treatment best suits his or her genetic profile.

According to Dr Guy Rouleau, director of the Ste-Justine Research Centre, this research project occurs in one of Ste-Justine’s fields of excellence and it paves the way for a personalized medical approach that makes use of our knowledge of the human genome.

The technologies IBM will be providing Ste-Justine will eliminate most of the manual data entry and analysis by providing an integrated infrastructure that will analyse, filter and select clinical data generated by the systems. The clinical data will be combined with genomic information into a single database that researchers will be able to query directly. The query process will be dramatically enhanced with a tool that will reduce query time from days to seconds.

The grant allows Ste-Justine’s researchers to work with leading computational biologists at IBM’s TJ Watson Research Lab.