IBM's Watson tackles lung cancer

A view of IBM's supercomputer, named Watson. (Jan. A view of IBM's supercomputer, named Watson. (Jan. 13, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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IBM's Watson may not be hanging up a shingle, but the supercomputer will help doctors at New York-based Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center evaluate patients' lung cancer treatments.

Armonk-based IBM said Watson, which trounced human contestants on "Jeopardy" two years ago, absorbed data from 1,500 lung-cancer cases from Memorial Sloan-Kettering and more than 2 million pages of text from 42 medical journals in preparing for its new role. The supercomputer also will work with health insurer WellPoint on reviewing payment authorization.

Watson was designed to be able to interpret natural language, providing a bridge between the data-crunching power of a supercomputer and the needs of humans who need to analyze large amounts of data. The medical initiative is the first to use Watson in a professional setting, but IBM plans to roll out the supercomputer in a variety of industries that have to juggle complex data.

"The combination of transformational technologies found in Watson with our cancer analytics and decision-making process has the potential to revolutionize the accessibility of information for the treatment of cancer in communities across the country and around the world," Dr. Craig Thompson, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, said in a statement.

The lung cancer program is being adopted by two medical groups, Westmed Medical Group, based in Purchase, and the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine, based in Sanford, Maine. Manoj Saxena, an IBM general manager, said it should be running at both groups by next month.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering's primary facility is in Manhattan, but it also has several suburban units, including one at Sleepy Hollow.

With The Associated Press

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