IBM’s Watson Diagnoses Japanese Woman’s Rare Cancer

IBM’s Watson has successfully diagnosed a Japanese woman’s rare form of leukemia that went misdiagnosed by doctors for months.

Silicon Angle reports that doctors from the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Science turned to Watson after the woman failed to respond to treatment. They fed Watson the patient’s genetic data and compared it to information from 20 million oncological studies.

Watson’s analysis uncovered a different diagnosis and recommended a different treatment for the patient, one which proved much more effective than the doctors’ previous approach.

The University of Tokyo reported that the supercomputer identified a rare form of leukemia in a second case as well.

Watson began “studying” medicine in 2011 at Columbia University and the University of Maryland; medical cases and millions of pages of research papers were uploaded to the supercomputer. Doctors also helped train Watson by correcting it when it produced wrong answers.

Watson has been available for use by doctors and health insurance companies since 2013. Earlier this year, IBM Watson Health joined forces with 16 health systems, academic medical centers, ambulatory radiology providers and imaging firms to help doctors treat cancer, diabetes, brain disease, eye health, heart disease, and related conditions such as stroke.

According to Silicon Angle, “Watson’s success demonstrates the huge potential of data analysis and artificial intelligence, which extends far beyond predicting networking needs or following stock market trends. With enough genetic data and the right algorithms, tools like Watson could be used for everything from diagnosing rare illnesses to prescribing perfectly correct dosages of medicine based on each patient’s personal genetic makeup.”

There are challenges and limits to using artificial intelligence for such medical applications, of course. The privacy concerns raised by creating a huge DNA repository are significant. Also, the limited data available for rare diseases hinders detection by Watson, which relies on existing information on disease.

Click here to read the Silicon article on the University of Tokyo’s recent use of Watson.



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