IBM Watson, Quest Diagnostics Team Up for Precision Oncology Service

October 18, 2016

IBM Watson Health and Quest Diagnostics said today they have launched a new service designed to advance precision cancer treatment by combining cognitive computing with genomic tumor sequencing.

The service—called IBM Watson Genomics from Quest Diagnostics®—will consist of laboratory sequencing and analysis of a tumor’s genomic makeup designed to help reveal mutations associated with targeted therapies and clinical trials. Additional genome sequencing capabilities will be provided by The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

“This is a powerful combination that we believe it will leapfrog conventional genomic services as a better approach for identifying targeted oncology treatments,” Jay G. Wohlgemuth, M.D., CMO and svp of research, development, and medical, Quest Diagnostics, said in a statement.

IBM said the service will make its Watson for Genomics widely available to patients and physicians nationwide for the first time.

Watson for Genomics adds approximately 10,000 scientific articles and 100 new clinical trials every month. The service will supplement Watson’s base of scientific data with OncoKB, a precision oncology knowledge base of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) created to help inform precision treatment options for cancer patients.

OncoKB is designed to help Watson uncover treatment options targeting specific genetic abnormalities causing the growth of the cancer. As a result, IBM and Quest Diagnostics said, comparisons with medical literature that formerly took weeks to compile can be completed much quicker.

Watson for Genomics will compare the mutations against data from research papers, clinical studies, pharmacopeia, and standards created by oncologists from MSK and elsewhere. Watson’s capabilities will be extended to community oncologists through Quest Diagnostics, which serves half the nation’s physicians and hospitals.

Treating oncologists or other physicians will send a patient’s solid tumor biopsy tissue to Quest Diagnostics, where pathologists will prepare the tissue sample for genomic sequencing. Quest researchers will sequence the treatment-associated genes using advanced next-generation sequencing, then feed the genetic file into Watson.

The sequenced genetic data will be compared by Watson with data from other clinical, scientific, and pharmacological databases to help uncover potential therapeutic options that match the patient’s tumor mutations. Quest pathologists will review and validate the results, and then prepare a report to the treating physician.

“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,” added John Kelly III, Ph.D., svp, IBM Research and Cognitive Solutions.

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