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Surprising Science

IBM’s Watson To Help Treat Cancer

The amount of medical information we have is doubling every five years. By using advanced computers like Watson, doctors can process that data into clinical cancer treatments. 

What’s the Latest Development?

IBM is partnering with a leading cancer center to bring the power of today’s most advanced computers to bear on cancer research. Watson, the natural language supercomputer made famous by its appearance on Jeopardy!, will be trained by oncologists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to synthesize a patient’s medical information with a vast array of continuously updated treatment guidelines, the center’s own cancer case files and its doctors’ experiences to provide physicians with individualized treatment recommendations. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Thanks to new medical and information technology, the amount of medical knowledge we have doubles every five years. The growth in data has been especially helpful and gaining a new understanding of cancer, which is not one disease, but hundreds of sub-diseases, each with a unique genetic fingerprint. Watson’s technology could make the latest oncology advances available everywhere. The first applications of the computer will focus on lung, breast and prostate cancers. A pilot program will begin in late 2012 with a wider distribution planned for 2013. 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


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