IBM Watson Health has been a game changer in the Healthcare IT world since its launch in 2015, and we have only learned to utilize the very tip of its vast knowledge. From assisting physicians to diagnose patients, to determining the best care plan for patients based on their specific needs, diagnosis and past trials, Watson has helped bring more efficient and effective care to its patients. Recently, Memorial Sloan Kettering and Quest Diagnostics have partnered with Watson to help provide a new service that would combine Watson’s cognitive computing with genomic tumor sequencing, which in turn will help physicians decide on precision treatment options for cancer patients. This program, IBM Watson Genomics from Quest Diagnostics, Launched in October of this year and has the potential to dramatically change the way we treat cancer in America today.
So this sounds great right? But how does it all work?
Cancer therapy often depends on the type of gene mutations occurring in the tumor. The latest therapies are designed to target tumors with a specific genetic makeup. Essentially a therapy that is effective for one kind of tumor may not be effective for another. Making sure patients get the correct treatment requires genomic sequencing expertise along with a vast knowledge base which must be rapidly updated because of all the changes in scientific discoveries, trials and therapies that occur almost daily. IBM Watson Genomics allows physicians to send their patients’ solid tumor biopsies to Quest Diagnostics where pathologists will prepare the tissue samples for genomic sequencing. They will then sequence the treatment associated genes and feed the genetic files into Watson. Watson will then compare that data against its massive, constantly updated, databases to help create potential therapeutic options that match the patients’ tumor mutations. Quest Pathologists will then review Watson’s results and send the plans back to the treating physicians.
This amazing technology will allow cancer patients the best cancer treatment no matter where they live in the U.S. Physicians across the country will have access to expert knowledge and treatment plans by simply sending in biopsy tissue, and patients will increase their risk of survival and quality of life. This service, I’m sure, is only the beginning and I personally cannot wait to see what results this brings and how our Healthcare system changes to adapt to this innovative technology.
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