IBM is set to partner with the New York Genome Center to test a unique Watson prototype designed specifically for genomic research to identify genetic drivers behind various cancer diseases.
Cancer is generally categorized by where it occurs in the body, for example breast cancer, cervical cancer and so on and so forth. However, recent advances in genomics suggests that this might be a simplification and categorizing them by where the genetic mutations that cause them occur in a gene is a better way of identifying them.
But spotting such genetic drivers, mapping a person’s genome to identify individual mutations, comparing them with large volume of other patients’ genomes and then correlating the findings with reams of research journals, studies and clinical findings is not easy.
With medical information doubling every five years, sifting through this enormous amount of information to devise personalized treatments is very difficult and demands heavy processing power backed by smart Big Data analytics.
This is why scientists have been unable to tailor treatment to individual cancer mutations even though ground-breaking discoveries have been made in understanding the genetic factors behind certain cancers like glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer that kills 13,000 people annually in the US alone.
Now, IBM and the New York Genome Center (NYGC), a non-profit biomedical research institution, are joining hands to accelerate a new era of genomic medicine using IBM’s Watson cognitive system. Together they will first evaluate the Watson’s ability to help researchers develop personalized care options in oncology and then build and test a prototype designed specifically for cancer research.
The cloud-based Watson cognitive computing system will analyze genetic data, drug databases and related biomedical literature.
The system will continually ‘learn’ and ‘improve’ its ability as newer medical research, clinical studies, journal articles and patient scenarios are fed into it.
“Since the human genome was first mapped more than a decade ago, we’ve made tremendous progress in understanding the genetic drivers of disease. The real challenge before us is how to make sense of massive quantities of genetic data and translate that information into better treatments for patients,”
Said Robert Darnell, M.D., Ph.D., CEO, President and Scientific Director of the New York Genome Center.
With Watson’s ability to process 500GB of information every second, scientists can now review and analyze data that used to take three weeks to three months in just three minutes.
“Applying the cognitive computing power of Watson is going to revolutionize genomics and accelerate the opportunity to improve outcomes for patients with deadly diseases by providing personalized treatment,”
“As genomic research progresses and information becomes more available, we aim to make the process of analysis much more practical and accessible through cloud-based, cognitive innovations like Watson,
Said Dr. John E. Kelly III, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research.
“With this knowledge, doctors will be able to attack cancer and other devastating diseases with treatments that are tailored to the patient’s and disease’s own DNA profiles. If successful, this will be a major transformation that will help improve the lives of millions of patients around the world,”
The two institutions will initially work to provide oncologists with personalized assessments of patients with glioblastoma. The NYGC, a consortium of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Columbia University, Cornell University/Weill Cornell Medical College, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and others, has already obtained approvals for clinical trials that involve 20 glioblastoma patients in nine New York area institutions and the trials will eventually be expanded to more than 100,000 cancer patients in the state of New York alone.
This unique and large scale project brings together pharmacologists, physicians, computer scientists, molecular biologists and mathematicians to solve problems that none of them can solve individually and pioneers the application of cognitive computing systems in realistic settings to deliver personalized medicine to cancer patients.