IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence to speed up cancer care

IBM’s supercomputer Watson will be used to make decisions about cancer care in 14 hospitals, it has been announced. Using computers to trawl through vast amounts of medical data speeds up the diagnosis process. The system will help assess individual tumours and suggest which drug should be used to target them.
Doctors have welcomed the new computer which will learn from each case it examines. "When you are dealing with cancer, it is always a race," said Dr Lukas Wartman, assistant director of cancer genomics at the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, one of those signed up to use the Watson system.
"As a cancer patient myself, I know how important genomic information can be. "Unfortunately, translating cancer-sequencing results into potential treatment options often takes weeks with a team of experts to study just one patient’s tumour and provide results to guide treatment decisions. Watson appears to help dramatically reduce that timeline," he explained.
Most people currently diagnosed with cancer will receive surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatment. But as genetic sequencing becomes increasingly accessible and affordable, some patients are starting to benefit from treatments that target their specific cancer-causing genetic mutations.
However the process is very time-consuming – a single patient’s genome represents more than 100 gigabytes of data – and this needs to be combined with other medical records, journal studies and information about clinical trials. 
What would take a clinician weeks to analyse can be completed by Watson in only a few minutes.