Supercomputer Joins Fight Against Cancer


Computer giants IBM have partnered with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in order to help the oncology community by providing one of the most complex artificial intelligence units in existence, Watson.

Medicine is one of the fields that has benefited the most from technological evolution, and can now boast some impressive innovations like nanoparticles targeting specific cells in the body, extremely precise and powerful medical lasers or robot-assisted interventions. These tools are extraordinary and have saved or improved the lives of countless patients, but now, a new ally is hoping to further tip the balance in our favor, an artificial brain.

Watson combines exceptional analytical and computational abilities with artificial intelligence to assimilate visual or auditory data, process it and predict the best course of treatment.

At the moment, it is practically impossible to keep up with the ever-increasing amount of literature dedicated to cancer research, and this is where a solution like Watson can truly make a difference. By learning as much information about the disease, including types, symptoms, treatments that are available and factoring in personal information about the patient, like age, gender, medical history,  Watson can best gauge what steps need to be taken.

Currently, the supercomputer is trained in thirteen different types of cancer, among them breast cancer, one of the most common forms that has a high mortality rate, with more diseases soon to be indexed. Even with billions of transistors, it still takes a considerable amount of time and some human supervision to absorb the sheer amount of information. Progress is somewhat slow but steady.

Hopefully, some of the more aggressive strains, like liver cancer or Mesothelioma, will get to be diagnosed much faster and have better suited treatment options, increasing life expectancy and general health care.