IBM Putting Supercomputer Watson to Work on Cancer

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Computers have been looked upon to do just about everything in today’s world, and now tech giant IBM is putting its Watson supercomputer to work at fighting cancer.

Last week, the company unveiled a plan with health insurer WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York to use the computer’s capabilities to help patients fight the disease.

Watson gained fame for beating two human champions in the “Jeapordy!” quiz show, and is now looking through around 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, two million pages of text from 42 medical journals and clinical trials in oncology research to help fight the disease.

This method speeds up the way data is normally analyzed, as it can often take years for the latest cancer developments to reach all practice settings.

“The combination of transformational technologies found in Watson with our cancer analytics and decision-making process has the potential to revolutionize the accessibility of information for the treatment of cancer communities across the country and around the world,” Craig Thompson, Sloan-Kettering’s president, said.

Watson will first work with 1,500 lung cancer cases, and clinicians and analysts will train it to extract and interpret physician notes, lab results and clinical research.

The Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and Westmed Medical Group are two centers which will be testing the service.

“IBM’s work with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center represents a landmark collaboration in how technology and evidence based medicine can transform the way in which health care is practiced,” Manoj Saxena at IBM said.

“These breakthrough capabilities bring forward the first in a series of Watson-based technologies, which exemplifies the value of applying big data and analytics and cognitive computing to tackle the industry’s most pressing challenges.”

They are calling the program Interactive Care Insights for Oncology.

Watson the supercomputer is named after IBM founder Thomas Watson, and is able to ingest tens of millions of pages of data in just a few seconds.