IBM’s Supercomputer Is Bringing AI-Fueled Cancer Care to Everyday Americans

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

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IBM (ibm, +0.17%) has been on a mission to turn its Watson supercomputer into a go-to digital assistant for doctors. Now, the tech giant’s Watson for Oncology unit has struck its first deal with a U.S. community hospital, bringing the advanced artificial intelligence tech to ordinary Americans patients who may not have access to the nation’s most prominent specialty cancer care medical systems.

The Jupiter Medical Center in Florida will have access to Watson’s cancer-focused services beginning in March. The souped-up supercomputer, which has been trained by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, will assist doctors at the 327-bed local facility make critical clinical decisions on how to treat cancer patients. That includes matching patients with the most effective personalized treatments and instructions on how to administer drugs.

“Watson for Oncology is part of our significant investment in creating a world-class cancer program and we are proud to be the first U.S. community hospital to arm our clinical team with this cutting-edge technology,” said Jupiter president and CEO John Couris in a statement.

Watson’s ability to sift through troves of the latest medical data – including mountains of clinical trial data, medical journal entries, textbooks, and other literature – is a considerable asset for doctors who have to see as many patients as those in a community setting do. Watson can present cancer care teams with reports ranking the most effective therapies and treatment options.

“Identifying the right course of treatment for cancer patients has always been challenging but today’s rapid pace of discovery creates new dilemmas in oncology clinical decision support,” notes Frost & Sullivan digital health analyst Nancy Fabozzi in a statement. “Keeping up with the pace of change is difficult enough for oncologists at the most sophisticated medical centers—and can be near impossible for those practicing in community settings with fewer resources. Watson for Oncology is fundamentally reshaping how oncologists derive insights that enable the best possible decision making and highest quality patient care.”

IBM has already struck numerous health care-focused collaborations, such as partnering with major medical centers to help doctors read standard medical imaging and hooking up with the likes of Pfizer (pfe, +0.16%) to develop next-gen cancer drugs.

Watson for Oncology has already been taught how to suss out treatment plans for breast, lung, colorectal, cervical, ovarian, and gastric cancers, and will be trained on nine additional cancers this year, according to IBM.