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VA, IBM Watson Extend Precision Oncology Partnership

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The US Department of Veterans Affairs announced today that it is extending its partnership with IBM to apply Watson artificial intelligence to its precision oncology efforts. The collaboration will continue until at least July 2019.

IBM and the VA entered into a two-year partnership in late June 2016 to provide personalized medical care to veterans with cancer. Under the terms of the alliance, VA oncologists and pathologists have been using IBM's Watson for Genomics computational technology to help identify precision cancer treatment options. To date, more than 2,700 patients have benefitted from this technology, primarily those with stage 4 cancers who have run out of more traditional treatment options, the VA and IBM said.

Watson compares patients' de-identified sequencing data with existing medical literature, and  identifies the mutations most likely to be responsible for each patient's cancer. The platform then suggests treatment options targeting those genetic alterations.

"It is incredibly challenging to read, understand, and stay up-to-date with the breadth and depth of medical literature, and link them to relevant mutations for personalized cancer treatments," IBM Watson Health Chief Health Officer Kyu Rhee said in a statement. "This is where AI can play an important role in helping to scale precision oncology, as demonstrated in our work with the VA, the largest integrated health system in the US."

The VA and IBM have also said they will make findings related to identified treatment options in the literature available to the broader scientific community.