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Watson's Next Feat? Taking on Cancer


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IBM's Watson supercomputer.

IBM's Watson supercomputer is being trained to identify personalized cancer treatments.

Credit: IBM

IBM's Watson supercomputer is being trained to find personalized cancer treatments by comparing patients' disease and treatment histories, genetic data, scans, and symptoms against the vast corpus of medical knowledge. Whereas human specialist teams could take weeks accomplishing this task, Watson can make such recommendations in minutes.

The project began with Watson being fed names, ages, genders, medications, lab tests, imaging results, and notes from each visit for thousands of leukemia patients treated at a specific facility over the past few years. Researchers also selected key journal articles from the past for Watson to reference and started giving it access to newly published content.

Watson produces a list of therapy possibilities and rates them according to low, medium, or high confidence.

"I see technology like this as a way to really break free from our current healthcare system, which is very much limited by the community providers," says the University of Texas' Lynda Chin.

Watson's evolution is rooted in its creators' priority to make it capable of reading and understanding natural language, generating hypotheses, and locating and parsing evidence to support or refute them. Watson also has learned from its failures, its successes, and user feedback to become smarter over time.

From The Washington Post
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