Watson project to focus on individualized treatment of brain cancer

The New York Genome Center and IBM have announced a partnership to focus the Watson technology on helping oncologists deliver more personalized care to cancer patients, according to an announcement.

The idea is that Watson can analyze patients' genomic data and pore through medical journals, new studies and clinical records to help doctors find the best drug to try on a particular patient, reports Forbes.

The project initially will focus on 25 patients with glioblastoma multiforme, a rare brain cancer that is almost always fatal within months without treatment. Surgery, drugs and radiation can extend that to about a year, according to Forbes, making time of the essence. But with medical information doubling every five years, sorting through it all becomes more difficult.

"We're hoping Watson's learning model can find associations faster than we can, and they'll be able to tune the sets of drugs to at least prioritize and give doctors the ability to drill down so that they can make better determinations of what to try," says Toby Bloom, Deputy Scientific Director for Informatics at the New York Genome Center.

In addition to Watson's ability to analyze massive databases, it can bring in relevant information outside doctors' area of knowledge--even from other fields.

So far, IBM has Watson projects under way with Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, The Cleveland Clinic, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and WellPoint. Those efforts include development of a clinical decision support tool for individualized cancer treatments. The Cleveland Clinic hopes to better train doctors using a tool that combs through medical literature and makes recommendations.

Despite the technology's promise--and ability to beat humans on "Jeopardy!"--it's been struggling to meet lofty company projections for generated revenue. While expected to bring in more than $1 billion annually by 2018, it had generated total revenue of less than $100 million as of October 2013, according to The Wall Street Journal.

To learn more:
- find the announcement
- here's the Forbes article

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