IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Network will adopt Watson cognitive computing to help match cancer patients with clinical trials. The Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network is the first in Wisconsin and among the first cancer programs in the nation to use Watson for Clinical Trial Matching. The matching program is slated to begin this fall.
Clinical trials are the gold standard in medical evidence and crucial for developing new treatment options for the 13.8 million Americans currently battling cancer. Finding and enrolling eligible patients in clinical trials is difficult, and less than five percent of cancer patients are participating in a trial. Watson for Clinical Trial Matching is designed to quickly complete the data-intensive process of matching patients with clinical trials, and provide doctors the information they need to advise their patients about relevant studies. For example, after a clinician submits a patient’s unique health information, Watson will analyze the patient’s data against clinical trial databases to provide clinicians with information regarding a patient’s eligibility for a specific trial.
“Clinical trials are at the heart of all medical advances to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. However, no two people and no two cancers are alike,” said James Thomas, MD, PhD, oncologist and medical director, Froedtert & MCW Cancer Clinical Trials Office and Translational Research Unit. He is also a professor of hematology-oncology at MCW. “Watson will support a higher level of personalized care for our patients by enabling us to securely connect individual health information with a vast array of clinical trials. By matching clinical trials to more patients with a high degree of precision, we believe Watson will help us fulfill our mission to advance the health of our community through scientific discovery.”
Clinical trials offer patients access to investigational and emerging treatments as well as non-therapeutic trials for supportive care for patients and families. Yet, enrolling participants in trials can be challenging. For example, a clinical trial for a new breast cancer treatment may require more than100 patients who meet specific criteria, such as a certain genetic marker, age range, tumor stage or treatment history. Currently, trial matching involves painstaking reviews by clinical coordinators who sort through detailed patient records and conditions to match the requirements of a given study protocol; on average, protocols detail 46 requirements.
Froedtert & MCW physicians and researchers conducted 220 cancer clinical trials in 2015. In addition, according to clinicaltrials.gov, an international registry of clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health, approximately 53,000 cancer clinical trials are ongoing nationally at any given time.
Milwaukeean Lindsay O’Connor was only 35 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Froedtert & MCW clinicians helped her enroll in a clinical trial studying radiation therapy for breast cancer.
“The more we participate in clinical trials, the more we can help researchers find better therapies in the future,” O’Connor said. “Research leads to new evidence, and scientific evidence will lead to new ways to treat and cure breast and other cancers.”
“Watson for Clinical Trial Matching can help Froedtert & MCW doctors bring more patients and researchers together in an effort to speed the development of new cancer therapies and extend hope to patients,” said Rob Merkel, Vice President of Oncology, IBM Watson Health.
IBM is working with Froedtert & MCW experts to implement a version of Watson for Clinical Trial Matching specifically for the Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network, which includes four locations in southeastern Wisconsin. As Watson progresses and matures through this collaboration, the solution will expand its body of knowledge with the goal of becoming increasingly efficient and attuned to the needs of Froedtert & MCW cancer patients.
About Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin
The Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin regional health network is a partnership between Froedtert Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin. It comprises eastern Wisconsin’s only academic medical center, Froedtert Hospital, Milwaukee; Community Memorial Hospital, Menomonee Falls; and St. Joseph’s Hospital, West Bend. The health network also includes more than 2,000 physicians across 25 primary and specialty clinical locations representing the collaboration of Wisconsin’s largest multispecialty physician practice with a community-based physician group. The network’s three hospitals have 784 staffed beds, nearly 40,000 annual admissions and more than 930,000 annual outpatient visits. Froedtert & MCW network physicians have more than 750,000 annual patient visits at its health centers and clinics. For information, visit froedtert.com.
About IBM Watson Health
Watson is the first commercially available cognitive computing capability representing a new era in computing. The system, delivered through the cloud, analyzes high volumes of data, understands complex questions posed in natural language, and proposes evidence-based answers. Watson continuously learns, gaining in value and knowledge over time, from previous interactions. In April 2015, the company launched IBM Watson Health and the Watson Health Cloud platform. The new unit will work with doctors, researchers and insurers to help them innovate by surfacing insights from the massive amount of personal health data being created and shared daily. The Watson Health Cloud can mask patient identities and allow for information to be shared and combined with a dynamic and constantly growing aggregated view of clinical, research and social health data. For more information on IBM Watson, visit: ibm.com/watson. For more information on IBM Watson Health, visit: ibm.com/watsonhealth.
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