Higher Enrollment in Breast Cancer Trials Through IBM Computing System

March 09, 2018 06:54 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- Mayo Clinic is partnering with IBM Watson Health to help physicians match cancer patients to clinical trials. More patients are enrolling in Mayo's breast cancer clinical trials, giving them another chance.

"Right now only five percent of patients with cancer participate in clinical trials. The number one reason why patients don't participate in studies is that they're not aware of opportunities," said Tufia Haddad, M.D., a Mayo Clinic oncologist and physician leader for the Watson for Clinical Trial Matching Project.


The system is currently trained to match lung and gastrointestinal cancer.

"We'd seen an enrollment increase in our clinical trial enrollment by 80 percent," said Dr. Haddad.

Beforehand, it could take up to 30 minutes to screen a patient for all clinical trials. Watson can shave that time down to a matter of minutes.

"We train Watson on reading the medical literature, PubMed, textbooks, journals. We trained it on reading a medical chart. Watson can do that very quickly and reduce the amount of time that humans spend in trying to match people to clinical trials, which in many cases might be the only option," said Dr. Kyu Rhee, chief health officer for IBM Watson Health.

Dr. Haddad knows first-hand how important this can be.  She lost both parents to cancer, but her mother did take part in two clinical trials.

"I know there's a possibility that participating in a clinical trial gave the extra months that allowed her to see me graduate from high school," she said.

In a way, this partnership has come full circle. After all, a portion of the Watson computer system was developed at the IBM campus in Rochester, also home to Mayo Clinic.

"It's helping the same people that helped build it in that community," said Dr. Rhee.

Mayo Clinic and IBM Watson health plan on developing the system so it can include trials for other types of cancer in the future.


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