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IBM's Watson joins doctors in fighting lung cancer with cloud-based medical app

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Watson medical iPad app
Watson medical iPad app

IBM's Watson will soon be another resource available to doctors in the fight against lung cancer. IBM announced today that, so far, Watson's artificial mind has been filled with over 600,000 pieces of medical evidence. Watson has also ingested over two million pages of text from medical journals and clinical trials. All told, IBM's cognitive computing system is capable of sifting through more than 1.5 million patient records (spanning several decades) as it researches the best treatments for a given patient. Obviously when it comes to cancer, Watson aims to help physicians pinpoint the option most likely to prove successful.

Doctors will be able to tap into this knowledge via a commercial, cloud-based "advisor" application, avoiding the significant resources necessary to house IBM's computer on site. Instead, they'll simply turn to an iPad for Watson's take. But when it comes to choosing the best course of action, IBM insists that will always be "the realm of the clinician."

But IBM couldn't teach Watson about cancer alone; experts at Memorial Sloan-Kettering have spent a year training Watson on the complexities of cancer. From a database of 1,500 lung cancer cases, they've used Watson's natural language understanding to help the system analyze and interpret lab results and written notes from doctors. "The combination of transformational technologies found in Watson with our cancer analytics and decision-making process has the potential to revolutionize the accessibility of information for the treatment of cancer in communities across the country and around the world,” said Craig B.Thompson, President of Memorial Sloan-Kettering's Cancer Center.

And Watson's cancer-fighting smarts are already being harnessed by the medical community: the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and WESTMED Medical Group have been named as early adopters of the technology, agreeing to provide feedback to IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and WellPoint — another longtime collaborator on the project.