Microsoft announces cancer research project with The Jackson Laboratory

LAS VEGAS—When it comes to fighting cancer, physicians have more data at their fingertips than ever before.

Perhaps, it may feel sometimes, too much data.

By some estimates, there are almost 2,000 new papers published every day including 200 linked to cancer, said Susan Mockus, director of product innovation and strategic commercialization at The Jackson Laboratory, an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution also known as JAX and headquartered in Bar Harbor, Maine.

The avalanche of data threatens to bury doctors.

"There's no way that we can read all these papers. Not an oncologist. Not anybody," said Mockus, speaking at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas Sunday evening. "We knew it was necessary to leverage technology, specifically, AI and some form of machine reading so we could accelerate the rate at which we could go through those papers, identifying mutations in cancer and how they respond to therapies."

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Announced Sunday, JAX researchers developed a tool called the Clinical Knowledgebase, or CKB, using Microsoft artificial intelligence to help the global medical and scientific communities keep up with the sheer volume of data generated by advances in genomic research. JAX collaborated with computer scientists working on Microsoft’s Project Hanover who are developing AI technology that enables machines to read complex medical and research documents and highlight the important information they contain.

Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Healthcare, said he was surprised by the sheer scale of the data being amassed just in cancer research. 

"Putting these things together really achieves that scale that is so important because there is a platform now," Lee said. 

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