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International Cancer Genome Consortium empowers cancer researchers everywhere with new cloud computing platform
Use of Microsoft’s Azure technology will save time and resources and bring more discoveries

Use of Microsoft’s Azure technology will save time and resources and bring more discoveries

Toronto – (November 23, 2021) The International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) is further enabling cancer research worldwide by making a massive collection of cancer data available for analysis via Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform. Providing secure, controlled access to ICGC genomic and clinical data on Azure will mitigate the need for researchers to obtain massive amounts of storage and computing power within their home institutions, meaning that more researchers will be able to use the data. The use of Azure was made possible by a philanthropic grant from Microsoft’s AI for Health program.

ICGC is a global collaboration that has generated comprehensive datasets of genomic mutations in more than 50 cancer types and made them available to researchers around the world to accelerate the development of next generation cancer treatments and diagnostics. The use of Azure will advance these efforts by providing cloud-based storage of ICGC data as well as a virtual computing platform to allow researchers to conduct data analysis in the cloud, using Azure-stored data or that from other ICGC platforms. Seven-hundred-fifty-four terabytes of ICGC data are available on Azure, comprising more than 75,000 files from 3,000 patient donors across 15 different cancer types.

“Through Azure we will put ICGC data into the hands of more scientists and remove the constraints that come with working with these large datasets. For example, even when using a high-speed internet connection, it can take researchers months to download the data they need. With Azure we’ve done away with that hurdle completely by taking the researcher’s query to the data in the cloud,” says Dr. Lincoln Stein, Head, Adaptive Oncology, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and leader of the ICGC Data Coordination Center. “We are thankful for Microsoft’s support and are grateful to the thousands of patients who donated the samples behind the data. We look forward to seeing the discoveries made using this new platform for ICGC data that will ultimately improve the lives of cancer patients.”

“Cloud computing has the power to bring together researchers all over the world and advance scientific discoveries,” says Geralyn Miller, Senior Director, Health Strategy, Microsoft AI for Good Research Lab. “The ICGC project is instrumental in the future of cancer research, and we are proud to help improve access to data for the global cancer research community through the AI for Health program.”   

ICGC has now moved into its next phase called ICGC ARGO (Accelerating Research in Genomic Oncology). ICGC ARGO will uniformly analyze specimens from 100,000 cancer patients with high quality clinical data to address outstanding questions that are vital to our quest to defeat cancer. It is anticipated that the Azure platform will be used to bring this incredibly valuable resource to the global cancer research community.