NCI Cancer Genomics Cloud Pilots. Current Needs in Cancer Research

April 7, 2013

The challenges posed by the need to disseminate, manage, and interpret large, multi-scale data pervade efforts to advance understanding of cancer biology and apply that knowledge in the clinic. For several years, the volume of data routinely generated by high-throughput research technologies has grown exponentially. The storage, transmission, and analysis of these data have become too costly for individual laboratories and most small to medium research organizations to support. For optimal progress to occur, access to large, valuable data collections and advanced computational capacity must be readily available to the widest possible audience.

On April 7, 2013, Dr. Harold Varmus and other members of the Institute's senior leadership issued a letter to NCI grantees seeking input on these and other computational challenges they encounter on an almost daily basis. Dr. Varmus stated that the NCI, as part of its ongoing investigations into next-generation computational capabilities to serve the research community, has begun exploring the possibility of creating one or more public "cancer knowledge clouds" in which data repositories would be co-located with advanced computing resources, thereby enabling researchers to bring their analytical tools and methods to the data. Reactions to this informal request for information were generally positive, with respondents focusing on six general themes: data access; computing capacity and infrastructure; data interoperability; training; usability; and governance.