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Quest, IBM Launch Cognitive Computing, Genomic Sequencing Service for Cancer Diagnostics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Quest Diagnostics and IBM Watson Health announced today that they have launched a service that gives US physicians access to genome tumor sequencing and analysis as well as options for evidence-based cancer treatments.

The service, IBM Watson Genomics from Quest Diagnostics, represents the first time that Watson for Genomics — IBM's advanced cognitive computing platform for genomics — has been widely available not only to patients and physicians, but also to community oncologists who provide the majority of US cancer care, according to Quest.

As part of the collaboration, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s OncoKB, a precision oncology knowledge base, will complement Watson’s body of scientific data, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard will provide genome sequencing services that complement Quest’s.

A treating physician uses the service by sending tumor tissue to Quest for sequencing, after which genetic data is transferred to Watson.

Each month, Watson absorbs around 10,000 scientific articles and information on around 100 new clinical trials, and the cognitive computer uses its large database of research papers, drug data, and clinical trials information as it searches and evaluates treatment options that might target the tumor’s mutations. From there, Quest’s pathologists review Watson’s report and send it back to the treating oncologist.

Scaling up access is a key part of the initiative, according to Quest. The firm said it has customers in around half the nation’s physicians' offices and hospitals, and its business reach encompasses many of the country’s community oncologists who provide 70 percent of cancer care.

"This service combines Quest’s state-of-the-art tumor analysis and national access with the cognitive computing of IBM’s Watson and the deep cancer treatment expertise of MSK," Jay Wohlgemuth, chief medical officer, at Quest Diagnostics, said in a statement. "This is a powerful combination that we believe will leapfrog conventional genomic services as a better approach for identifying targeted oncology treatments."

Paul Sabbatini, deputy physician-in-chief for clinical research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said that with use of the service, oncologists will have access to MSKCC's expertly curated information about the effects and treatment implications of specific cancer gene alterations.