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Mayo Clinic, IBM Collaborate to Match Patients with Clinical Trials

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The Mayo Clinic and IBM this week announced a pilot program to use IBM's Watson to match patients with clinical trials.

The initiative is in its proof-of-concept stage and Watson is being familiarized with clinical trial terms. Further down the road, genetic and genomic information may be included in the patient-matching process, a Mayo Clinic spokesperson told GenomeWeb Daily News.

Mayo said that enrolling patients in clinical trials has been a challenge, and at the clinic just 5 percent of patients take part in clinical studies. Nationally, the enrollment is just 3 percent, Mayo added.

Additionally, the process is done manually with clinical coordinators sorting through patient records and conditions to match appropriate patients with studies. Mayo conducts more than 8,000 human studies, and Watson could accelerate and simplify the matching process by sifting through available Mayo clinical trials to ensure that more patients are accurately and consistently matched with clinical trial options.

The version of Watson to be used in the collaboration will be designed specifically for Mayo and as it moves through the collaboration, Watson will learn more about the clinical trial process, becoming more efficient and "likely more generalizable," Mayo said. Watson may also be able to identify patients for trials that are especially difficult to recruit patients for, such as those involving rare diseases.

"With shorter times from initiation to completion of trials, our research teams will have the capacity for deeper, more complete investigations," Nicholas LaRusso, a Mayo gastroenterologist and the project lead on the Mayo-IBM collaboration, said in a statement. "Coupled with increased accuracy, we will be able to develop, refine, and improve new and better techniques in medicine at a higher level."

Mayo and IBM are working to expand Watson's knowledgebase to include all clinical trials at Mayo, as well as those in public databases such as ClinicalTrials.gov. Additionally, the partners are exploring other applications for Watson in the future.

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