IT & Software

IBM Watson, Broad Institute partner on $50m cancer drug resistance project

PBR Staff Writer Published 11 November 2016

IBM and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have launched a five-year, $50m research initiative to study why cancers become drug resistant.

Drug resistance contributes to nearly 600,000 cancer deaths in the US per year.

The partners will use Watson's computational and machine learning methods to study drug resistance in thousands of tumors.

Under the project, the Broad Institute will generate tumor genome sequence data from patients who respond to treatment initially but then become drug-resistant.

Genome-editing methods will be used to find vulnerabilities in the tumors. IBM scientists will then leverage Watson to analyze the data and uncover genomic patterns that could help researchers and clinicians to forecast drug sensitivity and resistance.

The partners plan to make anonymized data from their studies available to the scientific community for research use.

IBM Research senior vice president for cognitive solutions John Kelly III said: “Watson is already being used in the clinic to aid clinicians in cancer care.

“Our hope is that this effort, if successful, could eventually lead to significant breakthroughs. Someday, patients who would not otherwise have options in their battle against cancer may have reason for hope.”

Last month, IBM and Quest Diagnostics have launched a new service to help physicians bring precision cancer treatments to patients across the US.

IBM Watson Genomics from Quest Diagnostics will combine cognitive computing with genomic tumor sequencing.

IBM said the partnership with the Broad Institute is the new application of Watson for Genomics to help researchers and clinicians address the cancer genomics challenges and opportunities.

Image: IBM Watson Health and the Broad Institute bring the data prowess of Watson to study cancer drug resistance in a $50m research collaboration. Photo: Courtesy of the Broad Institute.