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Cognitive computing to match patients with clinical trials

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Mayo Clinic is using IBM’s cognitive computer Watson to match patients with appropriate clinical trials. The project, now in a proof-of-concept phase, is expected to be introduced into clinical use in early 2015.

Steven Alberts, M.D. and chair of medical oncology at Mayo Clinic, says, “In an area like cancer—where time is of the essence—the speed and accuracy that Watson offers will allow us to develop an individualized treatment plan more efficiently so we can deliver exactly the care that the patient needs.”

Currently clinical trials, which provide patients with access to new and emerging treatments, are done manually, with clinical coordinators sorting through patient records and conditions, trying to match them with the requirements of a given study protocol. At any given time, Mayo Clinic is conducting more than 8,000 human studies in addition to the 170,000 that are ongoing worldwide. Watson’s cognitive computing ability will help sift through available Mayo clinical trials and ensure that more patients are accurately and consistently matched with promising clinical trial options, according to IBM.

Nicholas LaRusso, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and the project lead for the Mayo-IBM Watson collaboration, says, “With shorter times from initiation to completion of trials, our research teams will have the capacity for deeper, more complete investigations. Coupled with increased accuracy, we will be able to develop, refine and improve new and better techniques in medicine at a higher level.”

Mayo Clinic experts are working with IBM to expand Watson’s body of knowledge to include all clinical trials at Mayo Clinic and in public databases such as ClinicalTrials.gov, to ensure that Watson has the needed expertise to help with the clinical trial matching.

(Image courtesy of ShutterStock.com)

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