By Lori Solomon, Editor, Diagnostic Testing & Emerging Technologies
Fourteen specialized cancer institutes will utilize IBM’s Watson computing system to improve personalized oncology care, according to an announcement IBM made as part of the World of Watson symposium (Brooklyn, N.Y.; May 5-6). By applying Watson’s advanced cognitive capabilities to genomic analysis, personalized treatment guidance can be recommended in minutes, rather than weeks, IBM says.
"When you are dealing with cancer, it is always a race," said collaborator Lukas Wartman, M.D., assistant director of cancer genomics at McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University (St. Louis), in a statement. "Unfortunately, translating cancer-sequencing results into potential treatment options often takes weeks with a team of experts to study just one patient’s tumor and provide results to guide treatment decisions. Watson appears to help dramatically reduce that timeline."
Use of targeted cancer therapies has increased "dramatically" in the past five years and now accounts for nearly half of the total global oncology spend, according to the Global Oncology Trend Report released this month from IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Increased use of targeted therapies is being credited with improving the effectiveness of drug therapies. However, targeting therapies is a nontrivial endeavor—requiring sequencing the patient’s tumor and matching the genomic results with rapidly evolving evidence in the medical literature. The process, experts say, can take weeks. By comparison, Watson can review genetic material and up-to-date medical literature and clinical trial information in only a few minutes. IBM says once the review is complete, Watson produces a report and visualization of the patient’s data, providing evidence-based insights on potential drugs that may be relevant to the patient’s DNA profile.
The Watson Genomic Analytics solution is a cloud-based service that combines evidence gathering and analysis in order to answer complex questions posed in natural language. It examines variations in the full human genome and matches them to data present in treatment guidelines, clinical studies, journal articles, and patient information. Watson Genomic Analytics is a learning system and "constantly gets smarter," with more experience.
The first phase of the program will utilize Watson for multiple cancer types, including: lymphoma, melanoma, pancreatic, ovarian, brain, lung, breast, and colorectal cancer. The first participating clinical settings are: Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; BC Cancer Agency; City of Hope; Cleveland Clinic; Duke Cancer Institute; Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center (Omaha, Nebraska); McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University (St. Louis, Mo.); New York Genome Center; Sanford Health; University of Kansas Cancer Center; University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center; University of Southern California Center for Applied Molecular Medicine; University of Washington Medical Center; and Yale Cancer Center. More participants are expected by the end of the year.
For more information on how faster genomic analysis will foster clinical sequencing applications, please see the Special Focus section in the May issue of Diagnostic Testing & Emerging Technologies. For information about clinical adoption of next-generation sequencing in oncology, see G2 Intelligence’s Report, Clinical Next-Gen Tumor Sequencing: Your Key to the Value-Driven Oncology Market.