IBM Watson, Quest Diagnostics, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, MIT, Harvard combine forces for massive oncology, precision medicine initiative

Partnership creates new offering for community oncologists who provide 70 percent of cancer care.
By Bernie Monegain
03:06 PM
IBM Watson precision medicine

IBM Watson Genomics and Quest Diagnostics today launched IBM Watson Genomics from Quest Diagnostics, a Watson-powered genomic sequencing service aimed at helping physicians bring precision cancer treatments to patients across the country.

Together and with the help of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Watson and Quest Diagnostics plan to give precision medicine – and oncology – a boost by combining cognitive computing with genomic tumor sequencing.

MSK will add to Watson’s trove of scientific data with OncoKB, a precision oncology knowledge base created to help inform precision treatment options for cancer patients.

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The launch marks the first time Watson for Genomics has been made widely available to patients and physicians across the country.

Quest Diagnostics, a genomic sequencing and oncology diagnostics company, serves half the nation’s physicians and hospitals, and extends these advanced capabilities to thousands of community oncologists who provide an estimated 70 percent of cancer care in across the country.

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard will provide additional genome sequencing capabilities as part of the collaboration.

The new service offering involves laboratory sequencing and analysis of a tumor’s genomic makeup to help reveal mutations that can be associated with targeted therapies and clinical trials.

Watson then compares those mutations against relevant medical literature, clinical studies, pharmacopeia and annotated rules created by leading oncologists, including those from MSK.

Watson for Genomics ingests approximately 10,000 scientific articles and 100 new clinical trials every month.

“Through this collaboration with the cancer community’s leading clinical and pathology experts, thousands of more patients can potentially benefit from the world’s growing body of knowledge about this disease,” John Kelly, senior vice president, IBM Research and Cognitive Solutions, said in a statement.

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MSK will provide Watson with OncoKB, a database of clinical evidence to help the supercomputer uncover treatment options that could target the specific genetic abnormalities that are causing the growth of the cancer. 

Jay Wohlgemuth, MD, chief medical officer and senior vice president of research, development and medical at Quest Diagnostics, noted the new service combines Quest’s state-of-the-art tumor analysis and national access with the cognitive computing of IBM’s Watson and the deep cancer treatment expertise of MSK.

The powerful combination, he added, would likely “leapfrog conventional genomic services as a better approach for identifying targeted oncology treatments.”

“Through this collaboration, oncologists will have access to MSK’s expertly curated information about the effects and treatment implications of specific cancer gene alterations,” Paul Sabbatini, MD, deputy physician-in-chief for clinical research at MSK said. “This has the power to scale expertise and help improve patient care.” 

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