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Not Yet for Watson

IBM's Watson supercomputer has been billed as a means to help physicians sift through oodles of journal articles, patient history data, and more to come up with innovative cancer treatment ideas. But Stat News reports that the program is currently underwhelming.

Watson for Oncology has been rolled out in a number of hospitals around the world. But Stat News says that at Jupiter Medical Center, its recommendation for a 73-year-old lung cancer patient was to try a chemotherapy treatment doctors had already come up with. At the same time, Stat News notes that most studies of the tool have conducted by paying customers or included IBM staff and have yet to appear in peer-reviewed journals.

It also adds that doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering have trained the program and included their own recommendations into it. While they argue that this democratizes cancer care, it has led some hospitals, especially outside the US, to turn away from the supercomputer, as it is too focused on US practices and populations, Stat News says.

Sloan Kettering's Mark Kris, who helped train the program, says Watson could get better with time. "Nobody wants to hear this," Kris tells the news site. "All they want to hear is that Watson is the answer. And it always has the right answer, and you get it right away, and it will be cheaper. But like anything else, it's kind of human."