Quest Diagnostics and IBM Watson Health have teamed up to turbo charge personalized treatment recommendations based on a cancer patient's genetic data.

Marie Thibault

October 18, 2016

2 Min Read
Cancer Diagnostics Now Powered by IBM Watson Health

Cancer patients across the country will soon be seeing Dr. Watson--so to speak. IBM Watson Health and Quest Diagnostics today debuted an offering that will use genomic tumor sequencing and machine learning to recommend personalized treatment options for patients.

IBM Watson Health has already partnered with medtech giants Medtronic and Johnson & Johnson. The potential of IBM Watson Health's powerful cognitive computing has been detailed before and was a key reason the business was named MD+DI's Company of the Year in 2015. But this service, called "IBM Watson Genomics from Quest Diagnostics," will be the first exposure to the technology for doctors and patients all over the United States. 

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"The beauty of Watson is that it can be used to dramatically scale access to knowledge and scientific insight, whether a patient is being treated in an urban academic medical center or a rural community clinic," John Kelly III, PhD, senior vice president, IBM Research and Cognitive Solutions, said in a press release. He added, "Through this collaboration with the cancer community's leading clinical and pathology experts, thousands of more patients can potentially benefit from the world's growing body of knowledge about this disease."

According to the release on the collaboration, physicians using the service send tumor biopsy tissue to Quest Diagnostics, where the tissue undergoes genomic sequencing analysis for the genes linked to various cancer treatments. The genetic data is then analyzed by Watson using its wealth of knowledge gleaned from databases, scientific literature, and trial results to recommend potential therapies that are ideal for the patient's genetic data. A pathologist from Quest reviews and confirms Watson's recommendations before sending a report on to the physician.

The offering is being bolstered by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's OncoKB precision oncology database and genome sequencing capabilities from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, according to the release.

"We now know that genetic alterations are responsible for many cancers, but it remains challenging for most clinicians to deliver on the promise of precision medicine since it requires specialized expertise and a time-consuming interpretation of massive amounts of data," Paul Sabbatini, MD, deputy physician-in-chief for Clinical Research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said in the release. "Through this collaboration, oncologists will have access to MSK's expertly curated information about the effects and treatment implications of specific cancer gene alterations. This has the power to scale expertise and help improve patient care."

[Image courtesy of IBM WATSON]

About the Author(s)

Marie Thibault

Marie Thibault is the managing editor for Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry and Qmed. Reach her at [email protected] and on Twitter @MedTechMarie.

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