In an ideal world, every cancer patient would get a completely personalized treatment that can serve their individual needs and requirements, but alas, doctors are only human, and giving that kind treatment for every cancer patient simply isn’t feasible. However, it could be feasible with the help of an artificially intelligent supercomputer like IBM’s Watson.
Fourteen U.S. and Canadian cancer institutes will use International Business Machines Corp’s Watson computer system to choose therapies based on a tumor’s genetic fingerprints, the company said on Tuesday, the latest step toward bringing personalized cancer treatments to more patients. Oncology is the first specialty where matching therapy to DNA has improved outcomes for some patients, inspiring the “precision medicine initiative” President Barack Obama announced in January. But it can take weeks to identify drugs targeting cancer-causing mutations. Watson can do it in minutes and has in its database the findings of scientific papers and clinical trials on particular cancers and potential therapies. Faced with such a data deluge, “the solution is going to be Watson or something like it,” said oncologist Norman Sharpless of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Cancer Center. “Humans alone can’t do it.”