IBM's Watson computer — the one that beat the best human players at Jeopardy! — will now help doctors at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center diagnose cancer.
Watson has the ability to process queries in natural language, a trick demonstrated in the Jeopardy! Competition. It can also access gargantuan amounts of raw data. That's what Sloan-Kettering wants to take advantage of.
IBM and Sloan-Kettering are already developing the first applications, which include lung, breast and prostate cancers. The new system should be tested with a few oncologists later this year, and it will be expanded in late 2013.
Sloan-Kettering will be providing some of the data, and its own doctors and scientists will help develop the system. Watson will also be loaded with all of the latest research. The plan is for oncologists to be able to check instantly the latest and best information, and use that to decide on the course of treatment.
Cancer treatment has become a lot more complicated over the last several years, and new methods of treatment are being invented all the time. Most physicians can't keep up with everything, and it can take years for new treatments to become currrent. On top of that, few patients (Sloan Kettering says only about 15 percent) make it to specialized cancer centers in the first place.
This isn’t Watson's first foray into medicine: last year the computer was tapped by Wellpoint, one of the largest insurers in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield system. There too, Watson would be an "expert system" to help decide on the best treatment options. In that case the deployment is starting with nurses who are managing complicated cases. via IBM, CNET