IBM’s Watson turns superbrain to curing cancer

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IBM Watson supercomputer

IBM's Watson has started delivering some major results for the healthcare industry as super-computer capabilities are brought to the fore in the fight against cancer.

IBM said at the start of 2012 that it wanted to target the health markets and revealed late last week that it has been working with health WellPoint and cancer research organisation Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Together, they have put Watson to the test by getting it to churn through a staggering 600,000 pieces of medical evidence, equating to two million pages of text from 42 medical journals and clinical trials covering oncology research.

Furthermore, Watson has been through 1.5 million patient records, helping it build up a huge database of knowledge in the fight against cancer.

This has help them develop a "cognitive computing breakthrough" which Craig Thompson, president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said would help deliver better insights faster and more effectively when dealing with patients.

"The combination of transformational technologies found in Watson with our cancer analytics and decision-making process has the potential to revolutionise the accessibility of information for the treatment of cancer," he said.

"Ultimately, we expect this comprehensive, evidence-based approach will profoundly enhance cancer care by accelerating the dissemination of practice-changing research at an unprecedented pace."

As such, the products now available include Interactive Care Insights for Oncology, powered by Watson, built by IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint and the WellPoint Interactive Care Guide and Interactive Care Reviewer.

Essentially these systems are designed to allow doctors to access more information on potential treatments by calling on Watson's vast knowledge banks to arrive at best treatment courses for patients. Wellpoint expects 1,600 providers to use the technology by the end of 2013.

Certainly, if humanity is to curb and then cure the effects of cancer it seems likely the roll of supercomputers and the era of big data could play a crucial role led by the likes of Watson.

12 Feb 2013

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