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IBM Watson Saves Patient’s Life by Correcting Docs’ Mistake

August 9, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints

IBM Watson, the artificial intelligence supercomputer, accomplished its greatest single feat yet when it aided Tokyo researchers in detecting a type of leukemia, helping to save a patient's life.

According to a report in New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV), the disease had gone undetected using conventional methods. Indeed, the 60-year-old female patient had been mystifying medical professionals from Japan after treatment—and all previous treatment—being prescribed for the condition was proving ineffective, according to a story in the International Business Times.

Enter the Watson machine, which in just minutes concluded that the patient suffered from a rare type of leukemia after her genetic information was compared with 20 million clinical oncology studies, which had been uploaded to its system by doctors from the University of Tokyo's Institute of Medical Science.

The patient was initially diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, which she was unsuccessfully treated for with several different anti-cancer drugs, leaving doctors confounded, a member of the medical team said in a separate report from last week. As such, the medical team decided to use the Watson system, which, on analyzing the data available, concluded the patient suffered from another form of leukemia and recommended a different treatment which was successful, according to NDTV.

Watson, the Jeopardy!-playing supercomputer, is built to mirror the human learning process through the power of cognition. Recently, at Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot Summit in June, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Watson Health announced a public-private partnership to help doctors expand and scale access to precision medicine over the next two years for 10,000 American veterans with cancer.

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