Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

They're Here to Help


University of California, Berkeley, computer science professor David Patterson says cancer researchers should enlist computer scientists in the fight against cancer. Writing in The New York Times this week, Patterson says that as doctors sequence more and more tumors in the hopes of finding key mutations and treating them, where to put all that data and how to analyze it will get tricky. The cost to sequence millions of short reads is almost small potatoes now compared to the cost of processing the data and turning them into something a doctor can use to personalize treatments. "Cancer tumor genomics is just one example of the Big Data challenge in computer science," Patterson writes. "Big Data is unstructured, uncurated and inconsistent, and housing it often requires a thousand-fold increase in size over traditional databases. It is not pristine data that can be neatly stored in rows and columns."

At Berkeley, Patterson and his team are answering the Big Data challenge — they've created a lab with three goals: "inventing algorithms based on statistical machine learning; harnessing many machines in the cloud; and developing crowd-sourcing techniques to get people to help answer questions that prove too hard for our algorithms and machines." Technology like this could help fight cancer, Patterson says. "It may have been true once that expertise in computer science was needed only by computer scientists. But Big Data has shown us that's no longer the case," he adds. "It is entirely possible that we have the skill sets needed now to fight cancer and to advance sciences in myriad other ways."

The Scan

New Study Highlights Role of Genetics in ADHD

Researchers report in Nature Genetics on differences in genetic architecture between ADHD affecting children versus ADHD that persists into adulthood or is diagnosed in adults.

Study Highlights Pitfall of Large Gene Panels in Clinical Genomic Analysis

An analysis in Genetics in Medicine finds that as gene panels get larger, there is an increased chance of uncovering benign candidate variants.

Single-Cell Atlas of Drosophila Embryogenesis

A new paper in Science presents a single-cell atlas of fruit fly embryonic development over time.

Phage Cocktail Holds Promise for IBD

Researchers uncovered a combination phage therapy that targets Klebsiella pneumonia strains among individuals experiencing inflammatory bowel disease flare ups, as they report in Cell.