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IBM Collaborates with 14 Cancer Institutes to Decipher Genomic Data

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – IBM Watson Health today announced it is collaborating with 14 cancer institutes to accelerate the translation of genomic information so that clinicians can personalize treatment decisions for their patients. 

The partners will use Watson's cognitive capabilities to reduce to minutes from weeks the translation of DNA information to create a genetic profile of a patient. Specifically, the collaboration will leverage Watson Genomic Analytics, a cloud-based service for evidence gathering and analysis. Designed for genomic analysis, it searches for variations in the full human genome and uses Watson's cognitive capabilities to analyze data sources, including treatment guidelines, research, clinical studies, journal articles, and patient information, IBM said. 

It then provides a list of medical literature relevant to the specific case along with drugs that have been identified in the literature. A patient's doctor then can review the information in order to make treatment decisions. 

Initially, the partners will apply Watson to analyze DNA from patients with a wide variety of cancers, such as lymphoma, melanoma, pancreatic, ovarian, brain, lung, breast, and colorectal cancer, IBM said. 

"When you are dealing with cancer, it is always a race," Lukas Wartman, assistant director of cancer genomics at the McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis, and a cancer patient, said in a statement. "I know how important genomic information can be. Unfortunately, translating cancer sequencing results into potential treatment options often takes weeks with a team of experts to study just one patient's tumor and provide results to guide treatment decisions. Watson appears to help dramatically reduce that timeline." 

In the collaboration, IBM is working with a dozen institutions in cancer genomics for the first time, an IBM spokesperson said. They include Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago; BC Cancer Agency; City of Hope; Duke Cancer Institute; Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, Nebraska; McDonnell Genome Institute; Sanford Health; University of Kansas Cancer Center; University of North Carolina Lineberger Cancer Center; University of Southern California Center for Applied Molecular Medicine; University of Washington Medical Center; and Yale Cancer Center. 

As part of the collaboration IBM has also expanded existing relationships with the New York Genome Center and the Cleveland Clinic, the IBM spokesperson said.