IBM’s Watson Found Cancer Treatments That Doctors Overlooked

IBM‘s Watson is helping the doctors to identify treatment alternatives for cancer patients and is also suggesting solutions that most of the human failed to see.

The researchers at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center had a supercomputer Watson for Genomics analyze “large volumes of data,” including the databases, past studies, and the genetic information in an attempt for identifying treatment options for 1,018 patients with “tumors with specific genetic abnormalities.” The researchers later compared the studies made by the Watson with that made by the board of cancer experts.

The results, obviously, were surprising. Not only Watson made a confirmation of 703 cases in which the expert panel identified an “actionable genetic alteration,” but also its cognitive computing has discovered “potential therapeutic options” for 323 additional patients. Although, the human doctors have not yet identified “recognized actionable mutations” so far in 96 patients out of these.

“To be clear, the additional 323 cases of Watson-identified actionable alterations consisted of only eight genes that had not been considered actionable by the molecular tumor board,” the report’s corresponding author, William Kim, MD, an associate professor at UNC’s medical school, said to the university.

Here is How the Oncologists are working with Watson Genomics from Quest Diagnostics?

The procedure that takes place for the Oncologists that are working with Watson Genomics from Quest Diagnostics is described as under:

At first, the patient sees a doctor that performs the biopsy and then the biopsy of the tumor is sent to the Quest Diagnostics for sequencing of the tumor’s DNA. As soon as this sequencing of the tumor DNA has been done the Quest sends the genetic data output to IBM’s Watson for Genomics. Watson extracts the relevant information from the millions of pages of medical literature and clinical research. Later, an evidence-based report is generated listing the DNA alterations that rea related to the patient’s tumor and potential therapeutic options that match a patient’s tumor mutations. Furthermore, a quest pathologist reviews and validates the Watson’s findings and based on it he prepares a report that could later be used by the treating oncologist for creating some personalized treatment plans that are tailor-made for the patient’s unique tumor.

However, the doctors had not considered those eight genes, where, Watson identified clinical trials for many of those patients; including the one that begins within the week of the computer analysis.

Kim stated that “Our findings, while preliminary, demonstrate that cognitive computing might have a role in identifying more therapeutic options for cancer patients.” “I can tell you that as a practicing oncologist, it’s very reassuring for patients to know that we’re able to explore all possible options for them in a very systematic manner.”

The results found were promising for the future of precision cancer care, that is helpful in treating the disease with the development of an individualized plan that would be based on genetic information of each patient.

Again, Kim stated that “To my knowledge, this is the first published examination of the utility of cognitive computing in precision cancer care,” Kim said. “I’m optimistic that as we get more sequencing data, well-annotated treatment information, as well as therapy response, tools like Watson for Genomics will begin to show their true promise. But, of course, we still need to formally answer these questions.”

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