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Using Watson to Stay On Top of Cancer Care Data

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In 2012, an estimated 14.1 million people were diagnosed with cancer worldwide, and my country, Slovakia, ranks 22nd in terms of overall cancer frequency. As the incidence of cancer continues to grow and time constraints on oncologists intensify, the need for research and treatment innovation is more important than ever.

The good news for patients is that more than 50,000 cancer clinical trials are published every year. And yet as new studies and evidence emerges – such as data being presented this week at the European Society for Medical Oncology in Madrid – it is nearly impossible for clinicians to stay on top of the latest cancer care data. This is why our hospital network is bringing AI into clinical practice to support doctors and patients.

In my position as Leading Physician of Cancer Center in Michalovce, Slovakia, I am one of 19 oncologists using IBM’s Watson for Oncology to help identify the most appropriate treatment options for each patient and sift through the growing amount of medical literature to better understand those options.

Like clinicians and researchers worldwide, the doctors here are working hard to provide the most effective treatments with the least toxicity to each of our patients, even as we battle significant time constraints and data overload. Watson for Oncology – which is trained by experts at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York – serves as an important resource to help us identify the best approach.

In breast cancer, for example, there are nearly 70 drugs approved in the U.S.; determining which ones to use, and in which regimens, is an important decision. New treatments based on genomic and immunotherapy options are changing lives, and Watson for Oncology can help the clinician sort through these various therapeutic options.

Every year at these important global cancer congresses, we witness new results from clinical trials and we are advancing new standards of care in many different cancer types. As this proliferation of data and evidence makes cancer treatment decisions even more complicated than in previous years, having the help of artificial intelligence to make clinical decisions will be useful for oncologists in Slovakia and around the globe as well.

I think this is just the beginning for AI in healthcare. Currently I am helping the Svet Zdravia network to develop a “next generation” hospital and this new facility will include a variety of cancer treatment specialties, as well as technologies that help these sub-specialists access data-driven insights to support the care they provide to their patients, right in the context of their work flow. Watson for Oncology will be used in our Tumor Board meetings once the new facility is open, and I am delighted with having this new clinical tool at our disposal.

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