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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Doctors will routinely use your DNA to keep you well

by IBM Research

Watson sifted four Terabytes of data to play Jeopardy! Now, it’s sorting even more healthcare data with the likes of WellPoint, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Cleveland Clinic. Next, IBM predicts that over the next five years, similar cognitive systems will help doctors unlock the Big Data of DNA to pin point cancer therapy for their patients.

Already, full DNA sequencing is helping some patients fight cancer. For example, Dr. Lukas Wartman famously beat leukemia using treatments that were tailored to the DNA mutations of his cancer cells. While previous leukemia treatments had failed, full genome sequencing of Wartman’s healthy cells and cancer cells revealed that a drug normally used for kidney cancer might work. It did.

This breakthrough has led to tremendous advances in cancer therapy based on DNA mutations, rather than simply the location of the cancer in the body.

But today, Big Data can get in the way of these breakthroughs for patients because doctors must correlate data from full genome sequencing with reams of medical journals, studies and clinical records at a time when medical information is doubling every five years. This process is expensive and time-consuming, and available to too few patients.

IBM is building cognitive systems connected in the cloud to bring these tailored treatment options to more patients around the world. The speed of these insights through cognitive systems could save the lives of cancer patients who have no time to lose.

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How to personalize cancer treatment

Once a doctor sequences your full genome as well as your cancer’s DNA, mapping that information to the right treatment is difficult. Today, these types of DNA-based plans, where available, can take weeks or even months. Cognitive systems will decrease these times, while increasing the availability by providing doctors with information they can use to quickly build a focused treatment plan in just days or even minutes – all via the cloud.

Within five years, deep insights based on DNA sequencing will be accessible to more doctors and patients to help tackle cancer. By using cognitive systems that continuously learn about cancer and the patients who have cancer, the level of care will only improve. No more assumptions about cancer location or type, or any disease with a DNA link, like heart disease and stroke.

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