IBM's Watson Could Offer Customized Treatment To Every Cancer Patient



IBM’s Watson supercomputer rose to fame when it trounced two human Jeopardy contestants in 2011. And since then, it’s kept itself busy, as a chef, bartender, and even pseudo-doctor. Watson has even dabbled in cancer before. But the latest foray is the most impressive.

Doctors from participating clinics will upload the DNA fingerprint of a tumor, and Watson will scour its memory banks, trying to work out which mutation is driving tumor growth, and what drug – approved or experimental – is best suited to attack the ailment, based on its knowledge of medicine, and the many clinical trials fed into its brain.

In that regard, it isn’t just matching human doctors: it’s using the obscene computing power at its disposal to find the best cure. It’s not a system that will suddenly eradicate cancer – there are still tumors that will puzzle Watson, and radiation/chemotherapy will still be the best treatment in some cases – but it’s a pretty big stepping stone on the path towards more personalized, more effective medicine. Let’s hope Watson’s first recommendation isn’t for a hot bowl of chicken soup.