IBM's 'Watson' Computer to Help Treat 10,000 Veterans with Cancer


IBM's "Watson" supercomputer will help treat some 10,000 veterans diagnosed with cancer under a new partnership with the Veterans Affairs Department, the White House has announced Wednesday.

The public-private partnership will help doctors scale access to precision medicine for veterans over the next two years as part of the administration's "Cancer Moonshot" program, according to a release.

Vice President Joe Biden joined more than 350 researchers, oncologists and other health care providers, data experts, among others at Howard University in Washington, D.C., to discuss the initiative and others as part of a summit for the program.

Watson is arguably best known for defeating in 2011 the longtime champions on the television quiz show, "Jeopardy." The supercomputer, which is designed to answer questions in natural language, in 2013 moved from trivia to real-world health care applications when doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering began using it to help manage lung cancer treatments, according to an article in Forbes.

At the VA, Watson will be used for genomics, according to the White House.

Scientists and pathologists who have sequenced DNA for VA cancer patients will "help them identify the likely cancer-causing mutations and treatment options that target those specific mutations -- a data-intensive process that has been time consuming and difficult to scale in the past," the release states.

The VA is the country's largest integrated health care system, providing care to 3.5 percent of total cancer patients, according to the release.

"Watson is expected to help VA clinicians give veterans rapid access to precision medicine options, particularly for patients with advanced cancer," it states. "The collaboration with VA is also expected to advance genomic research."

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