IBM to hire Watson to fight cancer

The IBM supercomputer will analyze information about cancer patients to determine personalized treatment.

IBM has announced an agreement with the New York Genome Center, a center dedicated to genome sequencing and which brings together several research institutions. The goal is to support the fight against cancer using the capabilities of Watson, the supercomputer that became famous for defeating the champions of the question and answer game ‘Jeopardy’. Beyond the anecdote offered by the victory of the machine over the human is the cognitive power that the supercomputer has demonstrated.

The New York Genome Center will use Watson to fight cancer, but not when it comes to research. The supercomputer will be in charge of analyze genome information in patients and determine the best treatments from these data. There will be between 20 and 25 patients who lend themselves to this initiative at the moment. The goal is to do DNA sequencing in healthy and cancerous tissues.

From this information it would be possible to personalize the treatments for each patient, choosing the most effective for each specific mutation. However, the analysis of all this data requires many hours of work of many specialists for each case. This function is the one that would come to replace Watson. The supercomputer is expected to be able to analyze all the information and propose several suggestions adapted to each case and backed by all documented argumentation.

For this to be possible, Watson’s cognitive system is not enough. It is necessary for the machine to acquire medical knowledge relative to the field on which it is going to work. The learning process – to call it somehow – has been facilitated thanks to the National Institutes of Health database, the supercomputer can also analyze the text of any scientific publication to be done on this subject.

Supercomputing and big data in the fight against cancer

IBM has reached agreements with several medical institutions over the last year to use Watson in this field, where it seems that his cognitive system has a great chance of being useful. The companies Memorial Sloan-Kettering, also specializing in cancer treatments, WellPoint, laid the groundwork in early 2013 for hospitals that could use the services of the supercomputer.

Cancer is not the only serious disease that is in Watson’s sights, so is Alzheimer’s. The IBM machine is also dedicated to analyzing a myriad of data in order to aid in the development of drugs that deliver more effective action. Needless to say, the role of big data in these investigations is key. The large amount of information available requires appropriate organization and analysis systems so that physicians can ask the right questions of the machine.

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