IBM Supercomputer may Help Doctors Outsmart Cancer

IBM’s famous Watson computer, which once defeated brilliant human opponents on the game show “Jeopardy”, is now being turned to by oncologists in Maine to help them improve the speed and efficacy of lung cancer treatments.

The computer, named for IBM President Thomas Watson, is now being used at the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and Westmed Medical Group to test new applications. According to IBM, Watson’s cognitive computing could help these doctors diagnose lung cancer more quickly and recommend proper treatments. This contribution is primarily because Watson is able to quickly sift through millions of patient records and histories in just a few seconds.

This is especially helpful to doctors in rural Maine. “Access to comprehensive care can be difficult in rural areas such as southern Maine,” said Tracey Weisberg, medical oncology president at Maine Center for Cancer Medicine and Blood Disorders. “This allows the most comprehensive evidence-based treatment we could have only dreamed of in the past,” she added.

According to IBM, Watson has been stocked with more than 2 million pages of text from medical journals and clinical trials, as well as 600,000 pieces of medical evidence. Clinicians and technology experts have also taught Watson how to receive and analyze complex clinical information.

This new take on cancer treatment could be very helpful for patients who have rare cancers like mesothelioma, for which research may be more difficult to come by.