Mayo Clinic sees 80% increase in breast cancer clinical trial enrollment with IBM Watson’s clinical trial matching system

In Clinical Studies News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Julie Spitzer 


Rochester, Minn-based Mayo Clinic enrolled more patients in its breast cancer clinical trials after implementing IBM Watson Health’s Watson for Clinical Trials Matching, a cognitive computing system, according to early results of use in Mayo’s oncology practice.

Although clinical trials increase patients’ access to new, promising or emerging treatments, matching and enrolling them in trials fit for their conditions is a lengthy, manual process. Only about 5 percent of cancer patients participate in clinical trials across the U.S. This low enrollment leaves many clinical trials incomplete or slow to finish, delaying research advancements and patients’ access to better therapies.

“Novel solutions are necessary to address this unmet clinical need, advance cancer research and treatments, and, in turn, improve the health outcomes of patients,” said Tufia Haddad, MD, a Mayo Clinic oncologist and physician leader for the Watson for Clinical Trial Matching project.

Watson for Clinical Trials Matching’s goal is to accurately and consistently match patients to the clinical trials they may be eligible for to potentially integrate with their care plans. In July 2016, Mayo launched the system in its ambulatory practice for patients with breast cancer as a tool for a team of screening clinical research coordinators.

Just 11 months after implementation, enrollment to Mayo’s systemic therapy clinical trials for breast cancer was up nearly 80 percent, and the time to screen patients for clinical trial matches decreased.

“This has enabled all patients to be screened for all available clinical trial opportunities,” Dr. Haddad said. “The speed and accuracy of Watson and the team of screening coordinators allow our physicians to efficiently develop treatment plans for patients that reflect the full range of options available to support their care.”

After its early success with Watson for Clinical Trials Matching, Mayo is expanding its partnership with IBM to train the system on trials for additional cancer types. As of right now, the system can only support clinical trial matching for breast, lung and gastrointestinal cancers. Mayo and IBM hope to eventually expand the system’s capabilities beyond cancers to surgery, radiation and supportive care.