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March 26, 2012

Watson Bolsters Medical Presence

Robert Gelber

The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) prides itself as a facility focused on educational programs, leading-edge research and first-rate patient care. In a move that looks to align with their commitments, the center has agreed to collaborate with IBM in developing a tool using Watson technology. The goal of the project is to supply professionals with improved access to extensive cancer data and practices. 

The press release explains the new tool will assist in creating individualized diagnostic and treatment recommendations for patients. This is not the first time IBM has touted their ability to provide such ministrations as they announced their Clinical Genomics platform earlier this month. In collaboration with an Italian cancer center, Clinical Genomics was designed to suggest personal therapy based on pathology guidelines, documented hospital cases, genetic profiling and family history. There is a strong possibility a combination of developments from the Clinical Genomics platform and Watson will be incorporated at MSKCC.

Cancer has been a leading cause of death in the United States. It is second only to heart disease with an estimated 1.6 million new cases expected each year according to the American Cancer Society. The disease has hundreds of variants and requires increasingly intricate forms of oncology care. Along with the complexity of cancer research, the knowledge base is quickly growing as well. Studies that focus on specific avenues of cancer may prove challenging for practitioners that carry less granular experience in the same area. For these reasons, medical facilities are turning to new technology to assist with complex diseases like cancer and AIDS.

“This comprehensive, evidence-based approach will profoundly enhance cancer care by accelerating the dissemination of practice-changing research at an unprecedented pace,” said Dr. Mark G. Kris, Chief, Thoracic Oncology Service at MSKCC. He also made a point to mention that only 15 percent of cancer patients receive treatment at specialized centers.

The project has already begun as applications for lung, breast and prostate cancers are already in development. Later this year, a planned pilot project will involve using the system with a small group of oncologists.


IBM is demonstrating early success in the medical field with the Watson platform. As the list of research and medical facilities grows, the system will continue to learn alongside some of the brightest minds in their fields. As adoption continues and the technology is refined, we should expect to see more accurate diagnoses and improved patient outcomes. 

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