Emory University, NuTec Sciences, IBM Develop Genomics-Based System to Individualize Cancer Treatments

New system identifies cancer-causing genes and most-effective drugs

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ATLANTA, GA - 03 May 2001: Researchers at the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University are teaming with NuTec Sciences, Inc. and IBM to develop an integrated information system that will enable physicians to tailor cancer treatments based on a patient's specific genetic makeup.

Bringing the genomics revolution out of the lab and much closer to patients, this system is designed for use directly by physicians to provide timely information to support day-to-day treatment decisions of cancer patients. When fully deployed later this year, the system will pinpoint genes and gene combinations that cause cancer in individual patients, as well as highlight genetic risk factors that would suggest the need for early screenings of cancer.

The system will eliminate much of the guesswork involved with prescribing cancer treatments that today are often ineffective or lead to harmful side effects. Determining the genetic "fingerprint" of a patient's cancer will allow physicians to select the specific treatment that has been proven most effective against similar tumors.

"Armed with genomic information and the computational power of the NuTec/IBM system, we can identify, with exact precision and speed, new drug targets to treat individual patients' tumors," said Dr. Jonathan W. Simons, director, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University. "The ability to quickly get complex target analyses for tens of thousands of genes, as well as clinical data, in the same timeframe that it takes to get CT scans today is a monumental step in personalized medicine for cancer."

Another significant benefit of the system will be the ability for pharmaceutical companies to load clinical trials with patients who have been identified with the genetically-specific cancers for which their drugs are being tested, greatly decreasing the time it takes to bring those drugs to market.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than a million people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Each day, more than 1,500 Americans die from cancer, which has become the second leading cause of death in the U.S.

NuTec and IBM have integrated disparate technologies to create a new generation of information system for the onco-pharmaceutical environment. This integrated information management system incorporates technologies for storing, retrieving, processing, and analyzing patient genetic and clinical data.

The new GenesysSI* (Seamless Informatics) system will combine leading-edge NuTec Sciences software for searching and analyzing gene expression and the gene combinations behind complex and often fatal diseases with the processing power of the world's fastest commercial supercomputer. NuTec Sciences' supercluster of 1,250 IBM eServer** systems has a processing capacity of 7.5 trillion calculations per second, which ranks among the top 10 of the world's 500 largest supercomputers. It is the fastest computer system installed outside a governmental agency.

IBM disk storage systems and software for Web application serving, information portals, data management and data integration will augment the system, enabling NuTec to transmit timely results to doctors, who can then consult with their patients using desktop and handheld computers.

GenesysSI will work by comparing a consenting patient's genetic "fingerprint" to thousands of different genetic profiles from various public and private databases. Previously, gene data was only compared on a one-to-one basis, a time-consuming and tedious process.

The genetic fingerprint of the cancer patient will be analyzed from blood and tissue samples that are computerized and charted using microarray chips. These images will be transmitted electronically to the NuTec Sciences' supercomputer, where algorithms will be run to analyze disease-causing gene combinations and determine the most effective treatments available, including new drugs being tested in clinical trials.

The results, which in most cases will be returned within hours instead of weeks or months, will be sent via the Internet to Emory, where doctors can review the reports with their patients and make treatment recommendations.

"The GenesysSI system was developed with the goal of improving patient care," said Dr. Michael S. Keehan, chairman of NuTec Sciences. "Our ability to quickly scan thousands of genes at one time to determine differences in gene expression between normal and diseased cells will lead to improved cancer care. Working hand in hand, Emory University researchers, NuTec Sciences and IBM have designed a system that will help accelerate the diagnostic process and provide the clinician with the kind of time-relevant information needed for customized medicine."

Emory expects the system will be fully operational by the end of 2001. Emory researchers are focused initially on the four most common forms of cancer -- breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancers. Hospitals around the country will be able to subscribe to the GenesysSI system on an annual basis.

"This system will showcase how information technology can advance medical research and patient care," said Dr. Caroline Kovac, vice president, IBM Life Sciences Solutions. "Right now, although there are many excellent drugs in the pipeline for treating cancer, selecting the right one for a particular patient is a trial-and-error process."

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