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This partnership between BC Cancer and Microsoft could change the future of cancer diagnosis and treatment

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Daily Hive Custom Content Jun 22, 2018 1:47 pm 830

Cancer is one of the biggest health crises of our generation – statistics now indicate that nearly half of all Canadians will be diagnosed during their lifetime.

And while an increasing number of Canadians are surviving at least five years past their diagnosis, cancer continues to be the leading cause of death in Canada.

However, Microsoft Canada announced a partnership with BC Cancer yesterday at the Cocktails in the Cloud event, and it could change the future of cancer diagnosis as well as treatment. It’s also going to answer cancer’s most complex questions at a rate never imagined possible.

President of Microsoft Canada, Kevin Peesker, president, senior scientist at the BC Cancer Foundation, Dr. Sohrab Shah, and Sarah Roth, president and CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation, were in attendance at the event, held at Microsoft Vancouver.

Kevin Peesker, president, Microsoft Canada/Microsoft Canada

Empowering health

Health organizations in Canada and across the globe are partnering with Microsoft to move beyond digitization into transformation and rallying with innovation. BC Cancer joins organizations like Novari Health, a Kingston, Ontario-area healthcare provider that is using the Microsoft cloud to modernize the way patients move through publicly funded healthcare systems, and CAE, a Montreal-based company that is using mixed reality to change the way doctors and technicians train for complex procedures.

Innovative computing will help accelerate the pace of research to solve complex problems, creating enormous economic opportunities and – more importantly – save lives.   

Microsoft Vancouver Garage Intern demonstrating an application that Microsoft is developing in partnership with BC Cancer/Microsoft Canada

A huge move forward

Fundamental questions about the nature of cancer have troubled patients, doctors, and scientists for decades. Why do people die of cancer? How do cancer cells learn to resist treatment? How can we tailor treatments to individual patients that have minimal side effects and offer the best chance for survival? And, the one question every person diagnosed wants to know: What are my chances?

This unique partnership with BC Cancer and Microsoft will help answer these questions, among many others.

Guests at the Cocktail in the Cloud event, where BC Cancer and Microsoft Canada announced their game-changing partnership that will answer cancer’s most complex questions at a rate never thought possible/Microsoft Canada

Maximizing time for patients

BC Cancer researchers will answer these questions by applying a radically investigative approach to the disease called single cell genomics. They’ll be analyzing the millions of individual cells that make up cancer, cell-by-cell, through using Microsoft’s cloud computing software.

Single cell genomics can capture cancer mutations at the highest resolution. This level of detail will enable targeted and specific combinations of treatments for individuals, based on the unique characteristics of their cancer.

The valuable information gathered and stored in the cloud will then allow researchers to predict how individual cells within a patient’s tumour will respond to chemotherapy. For patients, this means a more precise understanding of their cancer at diagnosis with a targeted treatment plan that is the most effective for them, and ultimately, more time.

Dr. Sohrab Shah, senior scientist, BC Cancer and co-leader of the project/Microsoft Canada

Understanding cancer

Studying treatment response on a single-cell basis represents the best opportunity to understand cancer as a system by studying its most fundamental units, cell-by-cell. This will be made possible by Microsoft’s AI platform and software, Azure.

Together, BC Cancer’s single cell genomics expertise and Microsoft’s innovative computing resources will accelerate the pace of research to understand cancer at a granular level, and bring hope to British Columbians facing cancer.

As a result, this revolutionary partnership is the first of its kind to incorporate a platform that can process genomic sequencing at an unparalleled rate and utilize the cloud for unlimited storage and knowledge sharing.

It also makes BC the only province in Canada for performing single cell genomics, along with a handful of research groups in the world capable of carrying out this work in such an advanced way.

Generous BC Cancer Foundation donors have underpinned the research engine that is BC Cancer, as it strives to break down cancer and save lives. This includes the cutting-edge work of Dr. Sohrab Shah and his team that will change the way research is conducted and shared with the larger science community via the cloud.

This partnership is just one of a series of investments that Microsoft continues to make in the province. From investing in the Cascadia innovation corridor, becoming a founding member of the Supercluster ecosystem to working with BC organizations to realize the value of the cloud, Microsoft continues to reinforce its commitment to driving innovation and growth in the region.

See also

Visit Microsoft Vancouver to find out more about the latest in digital innovation.

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