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Watson to Crunch Cancer Data for IBM Employees

IBM is to offer its US-based employees use of its Watson artificial intelligence software to identify what cancer treatments or clinical trial might work for them, the Wall Street Journal reports.

IBM currently offers its Watson-based service at several oncology centers in the US and will extend it to its own employees and their families in the US that are covered under the company's health insurance plans beginning next year, the Journal adds.

For the service, IBM works with Best Doctors, and professionals from that company review patients' medical records and feed that information into Watson. Watson uses that plus data from medical journal articles and other data sources to generate a report for patients and their physicians. Some of the Watson-powered cancer services match patients to clinical trials while another analyzes the genomic makeup of patients' tumor to suggest targeted treatments.

"A doctor has this big data challenge," Kyu Rhee from IBM Watson Health tells the Journal. Rhee notes that as new studies are continuously coming out, "it is humanly impossible for an oncologist to know all that information. This is about providing that insight to the oncologist for a shared decision-making process to help make sure the best treatment options are considered."

IBM adds that most of the Watson services will be free to its employees, though the genomic analysis will involve lab fees, the Journal says.