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Dr. Watson goes to work


February 18, 2013

Mark Kris, MD, Chief of Thoracic Oncology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (left) a...

Mark Kris, MD, Chief of Thoracic Oncology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (left) and Manoj Saxena, IBM General Manager, Watson Solutions (right) work with the first Watson-based cognitive computing solution for oncology (Photo credit: Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service)

IBM's Watson supercomputer has long held out the promise of being a partner in our endeavors rather than simply being a better search engine. Now an improved version of Watson has joined the oncology staff at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Of the estimated 1.6 million new cases of cancer expected in 2013, roughly 20 percent could be diagnosed incorrectly or incompletely. As early and correct diagnosis is crucial to the successful treatment of cancer, poor diagnoses and/or treatment regimens contribute considerably to the roughly one-in-three cancer mortality rate.

The first commercial applications for IBM's Watson cognitive computer have been developed by IBM, health-care facilitator WellPoint, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The new products include Interactive Care Insights for Oncology, and the WellPoint Interactive Care Guide and Interactive Care Reviewer systems. These applications of Watson's "big data" analytical abilities and natural language processing capability represent a breakthrough in the development of evidence-based decision support systems.

While the original Watson filled three large racks of equipment, the svelte new system can be run on a single Power 750 server and incorporates more efficient algorithms, resulting in substantially higher performance.

Watson has been going to med school for more than a year, being trained in oncology. Memorial Sloan-Kettering has tutored Watson in complex cancer treatments, as well as the genetic research which enables individually specialized treatments based on the genetics of a patient's tumor.

Watson has absorbed, cross-correlated, and been tutored in an amazing amount of medical information, including:
  • Over 600,000 diagnostic reports
  • Two million pages of medical journal articles
  • One and a half million patient records
  • 14,700 hours of hands-on training

The result is a cloud-based adviser that never forgets that obscure paper discussing what it means when a case that appears to be esophageal cancer involves bloody sputum or bone spurs. It will identify treatment options for individual cases, and back them up with detailed evidence and sources.

“It can take years for the latest developments in oncology to reach all practice settings,” said Craig B.Thompson, M.D., President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. “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 in communities across the country and around the world. Ultimately, we expect this comprehensive, evidence-based approach will profoundly enhance cancer care by accelerating the dissemination of practice-changing research at an unprecedented pace.”

The video below illustrates Watson in action on an oncology treatment.

Source: IBM and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer.   All articles by Brian Dodson

Brilliant ! Hope this expands to other Hospitals and areas of research.

Watson in every Hospital ?...Yes please.

Facebook User
18th February, 2013 @ 01:34 pm PST

Brian - Enjoyed your review and have circulated it to the Watson team. Very much like your e-mag and its coverage of innovation and emerging technologies.

Manoj Saxena
19th February, 2013 @ 09:53 am PST

Way to go!

19th February, 2013 @ 09:46 pm PST
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