IBM Watson, American Cancer Society partnering on cancer patient advisor

IBM and the American Cancer Society (ACS) have partnered to create the first advisor for people fighting cancer, powered by Watson cognitive computing.

The goal, according to the organizations, is to provide cancer patients, survivors and caregivers with trusted ACS resources and guidance personalized to an individual’s unique journey against cancer.

More than 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year and countless websites are available, but how do patients find the best information for them and make sure it's accurate and trustworthy?

Once developed, the advisor will anticipate the needs of people with different types of cancers, at different stages of disease, and at various points in treatment. It will be dynamic and become increasingly personalized as individuals engage with it, effectively getting “smarter” each time it is used, according to a release. ACS and IBM also envision incorporating Watson’s voice recognition and natural language processing technology, enabling users to ask questions and receive audible responses.

ACS and IBM will create this robust resource by drawing upon massive sources of data from both organizations, then train Watson to use the data to understand and anticipate individuals needs. The advisor will use ACS’s cancer.org, 14,000 pages of detailed information on more than 70 cancer topics, as well as healthy lifestyles, risk reduction and early detection. Watson will also “ingest” the ACS National Cancer Information Center’s de-identified and aggregated data about self-management, support groups, health/wellness activities, and cancer education. The offering is expected to surface insights from IBM's Watson Health Cloud--one of the world’s largest and most diverse collections of non-governmental health-related data in a secure, cloud-based and HIPAA-enabled environment.

Longer term, ACS and IBM aim to integrate the advisor with IBM’s existing Watson for Oncology offering for doctors, according to the organizations. Watson for Oncology is a clinical decision support tool that helps doctors make personalized, evidence-based treatment decisions for their patients. By integrating the ACS advisor, clinicians could be prompted to share personalized guidance on resources, including educational materials and social services and programs such as ACS's Road to Recovery transportation, Hope Lodge housing and Look Good Feel Better.

IBM is working with researchers, clinicians and cancer institutions to apply Watson technology to the data challenges of cancer treatment through partnerships with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and MD Anderson Cancer Center. At Mayo Clinic, Watson is helping doctors match patients to relevant clinical trials, and 16 leading cancer institutes are working with Watson to help doctors translate DNA insights into personalized treatment options for patients. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine are using Watson to develop solutions for automated hypothesis generation.