Watson Aiding Clinical Trials Matching

Watson (IBM's cognitive computer technology) aiding clinical trials matching
James Thomas, MD '91, GME '95, PhD '89, is medical director of the Froedtert & MCW Cancer Clinical Trials Office and Translational Research Unit, which soon will bring Watson (IBM's cognitive computer technology) to Wisconsin to quickly match cancer patients with clinical trials. This could not have happened without the generous support of donors to the Froedtert Hospital Foundation.

In June, IBM and the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin (F&MCW) Cancer Network announced they would be bringing Watson – IBM's cognitive computer technology – to Wisconsin in early 2017 to quickly match cancer patients with thousands of clinical trials available nationwide. F&MCW's Cancer Network will be the first in Wisconsin and among the first cancer programs in the nation to use Watson for clinical trial matching.

At the F&MCW Cancer Center, approximately 15 percent of patients participate in clinical trials (the national average is less than five percent). The process of finding suitable trials and matching them to patients is data-intensive and time-consuming. Currently, trial matching involves painstaking reviews by clinical coordinators who sort through detailed patient records and conditions to match the requirements (on average, 46) of a given study protocol.

Watson for Clinical Trial Matching, which can read 40,000 documents in 15 seconds, will accelerate the matching process – helping F&MCW Cancer Network doctors ensure that more eligible patients have the option to participate in clinical trials and research studies. Additionally, the technology will support a higher level of personalized care for patients by enabling the Cancer Network to securely connect individual health information with a vast array of clinical trials.

Watson, by matching clinical trials to more patients with a higher degree of precision, will help MCW fulfill its mission to advance the health of the community through scientific discovery. Also, through effective patient recruitment, Watson will help increase clinical trial fulfillment at the F&MCW Cancer Center – which is critical for National Cancer Institute designation.

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