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IBM Utilizing Supercomputer Watson to Fight Cancer

By University Alliance on February 11, 2013

IBM has turned the super computer Watson toward healthcare issues – including trying to find a cure for cancer. IBM announced earlier this month the computer already had led to a breakthrough in particular areas of healthcare, some of which could lead to improvements in the speed and quality with which healthcare is delivered.

Health insurer WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York are partnering with the computing giant on the project.

Sloan-Kettering president Craig Thompson told Agence France-Presse that Waton’s ability to analyze large sets of data could potentially step up breakthroughs in cancer research. The computer is currently going through 600,000 medical documents and 2 million pages of text from 42 medical journals and clinical trials in oncology research.

According to information from IBM, Watson will be able to quickly digest breakthroughs in the medical field. IBM reports that medical information doubles every five years, but keeping up with the latest can take 160 hours a week.

Because of that vast amount of knowledge taking a long time to reach everyone, many clinics are only using about 20 percent evidence-based treatments, according to IBM.

“It can take years for the latest developments in oncology to reach all practice settings,” Thompson said. “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.”

In the first phase, Watson is working with 1,500 cases. The computer is being trained – through clinical workers and data analysts – to extract the physical notes, lab test results and other medical notes it needs from each case.

Two medical centers – the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and the Westmed Medical Group – will test Watson’s service.

Eventually, Watson will “facilitate access to the best of oncology’s collective wisdom,” according to IBM.

Watson is named after IBM founder Thomas Watson.

As Watson moves closer to a possible cure for cancer, we are reminded of how this an impressive example of how opportunities for IT professionals still abound in the healthcare industry, and that now is a great time to obtain the in-demand, specialized knowledge that can help fuel the healthcare industry into the future. Aspiring students should consider earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer information systems or IT management from Florida Tech Online.

Category: 2013 Headlines