Supercomputer Watson to help fight cancer in China

Updated: 2016-08-13 00:48

By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York(China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

The US supercomputer Watson is about to team up with healthcare professionals in China in the battle against cancer.

IBM announced on Thursday that 21 hospitals across China will adopt Watson for Oncology, a cognitive computing platform for physicians to help them deliver personalized cancer treatment options to patients.

Watson is designed "to translate big data into big insights for oncologists", Dr. Kyu Rhee, chief health officer for IBM, said in an interview. "By democratizing access to information, Watson will enable oncologists to focus on their relationship with the patient."

Rhee said Watson will be able to take a patient's medical history and scan thousands of medical journals for information related to the patient's cancer and the latest drug trials to develop a personalized treatment plan.

"Watson's treatment plan is a recommendation, and the oncologist in consultation with the patient has the final say on what strategy to pursue," Rhee said.

Cancer is the leading cause of death among China's population of 1.4 billion. In 2015 alone there were 4.3 million new cancer cases and more than 2.8 million cancer deaths in China.

There are 12,000 cancer cases diagnosed every day in China, according to the medical journal CA: Cancer J for Clin. "That compares to about 4,500 a day in the US," added Rhee.

The initial hospital introduction is part of a multiyear partnership for IBM and Beijing-based Hangzhou CognitiveCare to introduce Watson for Oncology in China. Hospitals involved in the initial phase include SUN YAT SEN University Cancer Center, the Fourth Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University, Wuxi People Hospital, and Zhejiang Provincial Hospital of Chinese Medicine, and includes both urban and rural facilities, according to Rhee.

Watson for Oncology will initially be available in English only. However, Hangzhou CognitiveCare will provide some translation support to ensure Watson's treatment insights such as drug labels and treatment guidelines also are available in Mandarin.

Watson for Oncology was developed by IBM in collaboration with New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. "It is also being used in hospitals in India and Thailand," Rhee said.

Watson is part of what is called cognitive computing or the simulation of human thought in a computerized model. Watson is a supercomputer developed by IBM to be one of the world's most advanced question-answering machines, able to understand a question posed in human "natural language" and respond with a factual answer.

Watson first gained attention in 2011 when it won a competition on the US television show Jeopardy! by besting human competitors.