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Supercomputers Help China Detect Rare Mutations for Cancer Medicine 

The National Supercomputing Zhengzhou Centre’s powerful computing power helps the team of Xu Hongen from Zhengzhou University and An Lei from Henan University to develop precision medicine for cancer treatment. The first-line EGFR-TKI study targeted drugs and demonstrated the importance of supercomputing in developing precision medicine.  

According to the most recent cancer statistics, lung cancer is the world’s second most common cancer, with the highest mortality rate in China. Many patients with lung cancer have EGFR mutations. However, except for a few high-incidence mutations in clinical, most rare mutations have not been studied for drug sensitivity.  

Relying on the supercomputer simulation, the researcher team used DMS technology to study the sensitivity of 74,389 EGFR rare mutations systematically. The study targeted to drug development of five clinical first-line EGFR-TKI for the first time. This research method is versatile and can be used in sensitive and resistant mutation research of other targeted inhibitors. The study has been published in the Journal of Translational Research (IF=10.17). 

DMS is a new technology expected to solve the issue of VUS function interpretation. Even though the human genome has been sequenced for more than two decades, understanding a large number of mutations of unknown significance (VUS) remains a significant impediment to the advancement of precision medicine.  

The incidence of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutation in non-small cell lung cancer is 28.6%, with East Asian and Southeast Asian populations having a much higher incidence rate than Europeans. In clinical trials, EGFR-tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR-TKIs) outperformed chemotherapy in treating NSCLC patients. The therapy has been approved for the first-line treatment of patients with NSCLC who have activating EGFR mutations. However, to accept the treatment, the patient must meet specific criteria. In the clinic, doctors will use EGFR mutation detection to examine the patient’s mutation pattern to determine treatment options. 

The current EGFR diagnosis is primarily for hotspot mutations, with no treatment guidance for rare mutations. DMS technology is a new method for high-throughput and systematic gene mutation research that can rapidly perform functional verification on a large number of mutations with unknown clinical significance (VUS). 

Biomedical computing is a significant high-performance computing application field. The National Supercomputing Zhengzhou Centre has contributed to the continuous production of new achievements in basic research and innovation in biomedicine and precision medicine. The centre has leveraged the powerful computing power resources of the new generation “Songshan” supercomputer. 

The Supercomputing Centre is a secondary institution directly under Zhengzhou University, an essential part of Henan Province’s and Zhengzhou City’s scientific and technological innovation systems, and a necessary platform for scientific research and personnel training at Zhengzhou University and Henan Province. 

According to the Henan Provincial Supercomputing Centre’s positioning, responsibilities, and tasks, the centre has established two departments (Comprehensive Management Department, Operation and Maintenance Department), three institutes (Big Data and Artificial Intelligence Research Institute, High-Performance Geographic Computing Research Institute, and High-Performance Computing Research Institute), and Institute of Advanced Computing. 

The centre is located inside Zhengzhou University’s South Campus. The computer room is 2,000 square metres in size and built to A-level computer room specifications. To create the facility, Zhengzhou University oversees the basic environment, while the Zhengzhou Municipal People’s Government oversees purchasing supercomputing equipment. The first phase of the supercomputing hardware installation was completed in February 2017. The centre’s peak computing capacity was 800 trillion times per second when put into operation. 

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