Doctors and researchers at the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) are using a supercomputer to analyse the brain tumour genome of individual patients. The data could eventually be used to match these patients to drugs that could be more effective in treating their specific cancers.

The care treatment regimen for brain tumour patients has been established for more than a decade. However, new discoveries in genomics suggests that different patients respond differently to these standard care treatments. Such differences have been traced to the molecular heterogeneity, or genetic composition of their respective brain tumours. By leveraging the genetic data, individual patients can then be matched to drugs and therapies that are better suited to their profiles.

The neuro-oncology programme at NNI hopes that this will lead to more personalised treatments for their patients. The tumour genomic data was deciphered using the processing power of a petascale supercomputer at the National Supercomputing Centre (NSCC) Singapore and could lead to more targeted and effective treatments for a patients, and produce fewer side effects.

“Not all cancer drugs affect patients in the same way nor do they produce similar outcomes,” said Dr Carol Tang who leads the NNI team that is developing new treatments for glioblastoma, or brain tumours, by studying the tumours at the molecular level. “The potential benefits of this research include higher efficacy of the drugs to particular patients, better outcomes, and reduced side effects.”

Dr Tang added that the programme built automated pipelines to speed up the analysis of the large amounts of next-generation sequencing (NGS) data from brain tumors and patient-derived animal models. To do this, the team relied on NSCC’s ASPIRE1 petascale system to run the parallel processing of the NGS data. “We have also managed to accelerate the translational efforts of our research by deploying machine learning models and leveraging high performance computing resources to stratify patient cohorts,” announced Dr Tang.

“Moving forward, the team is planning to incorporate the findings in an initial precision oncology clinical trial,” said A/Prof Ang Beng Ti, Head & Senior Consultant for the Department of Neurosurgery at NNI, SGH campus. The team will monitor the patient’s tumour and molecular subtype switching during the course of the disease to analyse tumour progression and the patient’s responses to the tailored treatment.

The team had also recently integrated multi-omics data from patient databases, and established connections with the Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) programme to better understand the interactions of candidate drugs with the standard of care treatment for glioblastoma patients. The results of this study were recently published in Nature Communications. The neuro-oncology programme at NNI was awarded an NMRC Translational and Clinical Research Flagship Programme grant in 2016 to pursue research in the clinical management of glioblastoma.

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NSCC NewsBytes September 2019

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