CRADLE project Massachusetts General Hospital

A high-performance, open-source engine for resolving calculation descriptions

  • 11 July 2022
  • 4 minutes

A complete, retrievable, reusable record of what you did with the data

Challenges in the field of radio therapy planning

Developed as application to solve some of the problems that radio therapy planning faces, CRADLE has proven to be a general solution for any field that uses big data. It simplifies complexity, makes computations and recalculations easier and faster because of the built in immutability of data and the purity of functions. Both patients and doctors benefit.

Hanne M Kooy Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital & Harvard Medical School. Together with his colleague Thomas Madden he applied the principles of the functional programming paradigm to optimize the Radiation Oncology proton treatment planning. They did so in order to improve the processing of the vast amount of data that come with the treatment, like dose distributions and spot maps.

''Proton beam therapy is a form of radiation treatment used to destroy tumor cells. Instead of using x-rays, it uses protons to send beams of high energy that can target tumors more precisely than X-ray radiation. The treatment planning involves running a series of simulations in order to get an idea of what the result of the treatment will be. As a result some optimizations are necessary to find out the best way in a particular case to apply the proton technique. As we analyse the results, we can establish whether or not these tweaks have had the desired effect. CRADLE comes in, when we want to know what calculations have to be rerun in order to establish the effect of the changes that we made.''

The essence of CRADLE: caching and storing immutable data for faster recalculating

'‘CRADLE is a system for caching and storing the results of those calculations. It will provide you with these results if you make a new calculation, so you don’t have to go through whole process again. A huge benefit, brought upon by the immutability of data and pure functions.’'

A clear cut description of those two concepts is to be found in a recent publication by Kooy and Madden, [Source: CRADLE - Immutability in Data and Computations, 2022]:

“Immutable data is a key concept in functional programming, a programming paradigm focused on the use of pure functions. A pure function behaves as a mathematical function in that its result only depends on its inputs and it does not trigger external side effects. These guarantees translate into important practical advantages in software that uses this paradigm. In particular, the caching of function results is highly simplified because results only depend on explicit inputs to the function.”

So, CRADLE, not an acronym by the way, its capitals do not refer to nouns of adjectives, is best described as a complete, retrievable, reusable record of what you did with the data. It solves some of the treatment planning problems that professionals in radio therapy face, like the huge length of the calculations and the high cost of errors, both with regard to time, money and patient wellbeing.  

CRADLE – a smart way of simplifying complexity

Where does ICT Group come into the equation?

CRADLE is open source software, its user interface is of the REACT type. A core quality of REACT is that it allows software developers and engineers to change a component without changing or disturbing other components, a benefit similar to the central idea of CRADLE.

CRADLE is not radiotherapy specific, its qualities will prove useful in any other field that has to deal with huge amounts of data. And that is where ICT Group comes into the equation. The Massachusetts General Hospital & Harvard Medical School and ICT Group are working ways of making CRADLE accessible and applicable to various fields.


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