How the Energy Department's supercomputers are aiding the Cancer Moonshot

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The supercomputers at the U.S. Department of Energy have joined the Cancer Moonshot program to help quicken the pace of cancer treatment development by mining and analyzing large sets of data often too big for humans to do.

Ernest Moniz, PhD, secretary of energy, outlined in a Medium posthow the department's supercomputers will bolster the Cancer Moonshot.

"Our commitment to the Cancer Moonshot builds on the department's longstanding contributions to biomedical research, from radiation biology to genomics," Dr. Moniz wrote, adding the Department of Energy's supercomputers were the ones to map the human genome.

According to Dr. Moniz, a key challenge facing the Cancer Moonshot isn't gathering data — he wrote that we currently have more data than ever before. The challenge is accessing and analyzing the data to find patterns offering insight on the causes of and potential treatments for cancer.

"With supercomputers, we can find answers to questions that are practically impossible to solve with the human eye," he wrote. "In this case, supercomputers are excellent tools for analyzing genomic and molecular datasets, patient records, family histories and other complex information related to cancer."

The DOE's supercomputers can model nuclear processes "down to tiny fractions of a second" and make more than "20 million billion calculations per second," according to Dr. Moniz's post.

The power of these supercomputers opens new pathways for discovery, including new techniques in artificial intelligence, data science and simulations, and they will continue to get better.

"These centers lay the groundwork for advanced 'exascale' computing, which can perform a billion billion calculations per second — 20 to 40 times what we're talking about today," Dr. Moniz wrote. "And that will be necessary to adequately understand the complexities of cancer."

More articles on the Cancer Moonshot:

Joe Biden announces launch of open-access genomic database for cancer research 
Obama administration to host cancer moonshot summit 
Opinion: Early blunders continue to trouble cancer moonshot initiative 

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