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Novartis and IBM Watson collaborate on outcomes-based breast cancer care

by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter | June 07, 2017
Health IT Rad Oncology Women's Health
Novartis and IBM Watson Health have announced plans to collaborate on an initiative to improve care and outcomes for those with advanced breast cancer.

As research advances the understanding and treatments for the disease, clinicians have found that expanding real-world data and multiplying treatment options are raising many questions about the best path for treating a specific patient. The aim of the new collaboration is to bring together the breast cancer expertise of Novartis, which is a priority oncology focus area for the company, with IBM Watson Health's experience in data analytics and machine learning.

"Through this collaboration with IBM Watson Health, we will use real-world breast cancer data and cognitive computing to identify solutions that may help physicians better understand which therapy may be best for which patients, or advise clinical practice guidelines, with the goal of improving patient outcomes and experiences," Bruno Strigini, CEO, Novartis Oncology, said in a statement, adding that in addition it is hoped that the “collaboration also uncovers care efficiencies that can be applied beyond breast cancer."

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The collaboration is part of the ongoing effort to use data to find better ways to individualize treatment.

"As the industry shifts toward value-based care, it's critical for clinicians to understand the real-world outcomes of therapeutics on subsets of their patients, and our goal, ultimately, is to put those insights into oncologists' hands,” said Dr. Anil Jain, chief medical informatics officer of IBM Watson Health. “With the deep expertise of Novartis in breast cancer, we are confident that this collaboration may provide transformative tools for clinicians and patients to make more informed treatment decisions."

IBM Watson Health was in the news last week when, along with various collaborators, it presented recent findings at ASCO 2017, June 2-6 in Chicago, that showed the clinical utility of Watson for Oncology, trained by Memorial Sloan Kettering, as well as Watson for Clinical Trial Matching (CTM).

Recent findings from five studies on Watson oncology unveiled at the meeting included that:

• Watson for Clinical Trials Matching cut the time required to screen patients for clinical trial eligibility by 78 percent in a technology feasibility study with Highlands Oncology Group and Novartis.

• Watson for Oncology achieved a concordance rate of 96 percent for lung, 81 percent for colon and 93 percent for rectal cancer cases compared to recommendations from the multi-disciplinary tumor board in a study at Manipal Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Bangalore, India.

• Watson for Oncology achieved a concordance rate of 83 percent for multiple cancer types, compared to recommendations from oncologists in a study at Bumrungrad International Hospital, a multispecialty hospital in Bangkok, Thailand.

• Watson for Oncology achieved a concordance rate of 73 percent for high risk colon cancer cases when compared to the tumor board from Gachon University Gil Medical Centre in Incheon, South Korea.

• In a qualitative study, oncologists in Mexico found Watson for Oncology to be useful to help them identify potential treatment options for their patients, particularly in clinics that lack subspecialist expertise, and for training medical students and residents.

“These studies demonstrate that Watson technologies are doing what we expect them to do: helping physicians augment their own experience and expertise to deliver evidence-based care,” noted Dr. Andrew Norden, deputy chief health officer for oncology and genomics, IBM Watson Health.

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