"Watson" supercomputer to guide personalized cancer treatments
The trend toward developing highly personalized cancer treatments based on a patient's DNA is taking a big leap foward. More than a dozen U.S. and Canadian cancer institutes will start using the IBM supercomputer known as "Watson" to precisely identify drugs that can be most effective at treating a tumor based on its genetic footprint.
While experts agree that chemotherapy and radiation will remain the standard of care for many common cancers, matching a person's treatment to their DNA is increasingly being seen as a key to the future of fighting cancer.
It can take weeks or longer to identify which drugs can be most effective against a particular tumor, Watson can provide an answer in minutes from its enormous database of scientific papers and clinical trials on particular cancers and potential therapies. do it in minutes and has in its database the findings of scientific papers and clinical trials on particular cancers and potential therapies.
By the end of 2015, Watson will be helping doctors at a total of 14 cancer institutes, including the Cleveland Clinic, the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha and Yale Cancer Center. The centers will pay a subscription fee for the service, which IBM has not disclosed. Oncologists will upload the DNA fingerprint of a patient's tumor, which indicates which genes are mutated and possibly driving the malignancy. Then Watson, famous for beating two champions of the game show Jeopardy! in 2011, will sift through thousands of mutations and try to identify which is driving the tumor, and what drug would be most effective.
Steve Harvey, vice president of IBM Watson Health, has said that Watson could match patients with approved or experimental cancer drugs, but also possibly non-cancer drugs.