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Peer-To-Peer Technology Applied To The Fight Against Cancer

By Tim Stevens If you own a personal computer, you can now join in what could be the largest effort ever launched to combat cancer. Using peer-to-peer technology similar to that popularized by Napster for online music-sharing, the project will link the computing power of potentially millions of PCs to evaluate some 250 million molecules for their cancer-fighting potential. Tapping the hard drive and processing power of PCs when they are not in use, the assembled virtual supercomputer eventually will be capable of more than 50 teraflops (trillions of operations per second) of computational power, according to Intel Corp., Palo Alto, Calif., which is sponsoring the project. The peer-to-peer application program linking PCs was developed by United Devices Inc., Austin, in conjunction with the National Foundation for Cancer Research and England's University of Oxford, where results will be compiled and evaluated. The program will operate only while computing resources are available, reports United Devices, and PC users will be oblivious to its operation, which will not interfere with their computing. PC owners who are interested in participating can download a secure, noninvasive program from, or It is estimated that 24 million computing hours will be required for the project. "This collaborative initiative offers us the capability to save three to five years in the design of anti-cancer drugs, meaning promising medicine will get to the market much quicker," says Dr. Sujuan Ba, science director, the National Foundation for Cancer Research, Washington, D.C. While leukemia will be the first disease attacked in this manner, Intel Corp. suggests other programs will be developed for research on diseases from Parkinson's to diabetes.

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