IBM Watson Taking the Fight to Cancer

CancerIBM Watson is taking the fight to cancer as more hospitals and medical research firms around the world use the resource in their ongoing war to treat the dreaded disease.

The Jeopardy champion has been consistently improving when it comes to designing treatment plans for cancer victims, Engadget reported.

New data presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology showed suggested treatment plans from Watson were often exactly what physicians would recommend.

Recent research from India showed Watson’s suggested treatments for colon cancer matched physicians recommendations 81 percent of the time, 93 percent of the time for rectal cancer, and 96 percent of the time for lung cancer.

A study from Thailand showed comparable rates of agreements for lung, breast, colorectal and gastric cancer treatments.

Healthcare researchers are increasingly using Watson for Oncology, a cognitive computing system trained by doctors from Memorial Sloan Kettering. The system takes a patient’s medical history, extracts information from the records, and is able to design a personalized treatment plan.

Watson for Oncology just made its debut in Australia, with Queensland-based Icon Group signing up with IBM and helping oncologists across the country, the Australian Business Review reported.

Icon Group will implement an “augmented intelligence platform” to help clinicians stay on top of ever increasing amounts of cancer research.

“Traditionally they rely on a series of conferences and journals and have to soak up every bit of the new research, but Watson gives them easier access to this information,” said Cathie Reid, one of Icon’s co-founders.

The Georgia Cancer Center is also making use of IBM Watson to quickly assess genetic markers in tumors, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

With so many taking advantage of IBM Watson as a powerful resource, the system continues to prove itself as a desired ally in the fight against cancer.

IBM Watson For Oncology Going Live in a U.S. Community Hospital

In a first for the U.S., IBM’s Watson For Oncology (WFO) is essentially joining the clinical staff at an American community hospital. After being trained at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and being tested in hospitals in several parts of the world, Watson will assist doctors at the 327-bed Jupiter Medical Center of Jupiter, Florida, in developing personalized treatment plans for cancer patients.

Why Watson?

What Watson brings to the table is its ability to quickly sift through reams of data from medical journals, textbooks, and clinical trials in order to provide doctors with rankings of the most appropriate treatment options for a particular patient. Identifying the proper treatment regime for cancer patients has always been difficult. Now, with rapid advancements in cancer research and clinical practice, the amount of data available to doctors is far outstripping their ability to keep up with current best practices.

WFO can lift much of what is essentially an information processing task off the shoulders of physicians. By combining information from the medical literature with the patient’s own records and physicians’ notes, Watson can provide a ranked list of personalized treatment options. And if patient records don’t provide all the information it needs for its analysis, Watson will even prompt the physician for more data.

Humans Still Required

Of course WFO is not intended to in any way replace or supersede human physicians. Dr. Abraham Schwarzberg, chief of oncology at Jupiter, thinks of Watson as providing a “second opinion” in the examination room. Doctors can access Watson’s recommendations on a tablet device while the examination of the patient is in progress. “We want a tool that interacts with physicians on the front end as they are prospectively going into making decisions,” says Dr. Schwarzberg.

Results

HospitalIn a study of 638 breast cancer cases conducted at a hospital in Bengaluru, India, WFO’s treatment recommendations achieved an overall 90 percent rate of agreement with those of a human tumor board. Still, IBM acknowledges that it’s too early to claim that Watson will actually improve outcomes for cancer patients. But with the vastly improved ability to personalize treatment options for individual patients that Watson provides, there’s every reason for optimism. As Nancy Fabozzi, a health analyst at Frost & Sullivan puts it, “Watson for Oncology is fundamentally reshaping how oncologists derive insights that enable the best possible decision making and highest quality patient care.”