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Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Network Taps Watson for Clinical Trial Matching

June 3, 2016
by Heather Landi
| Reprints
Credit: Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network

Milwaukee-based Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Network plans to leverage IBM Watson’s cognitive computing to help match cancer patients with clinical trials.

The Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network, a partnership between Froedtert Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin, is the first in Wisconsin and among the first cancer programs in the nation to use Watson for clinical trial matching, according to a press release. The matching program is slated to begin in the fall.

Clinical trials are vital for developing new treatment options for cancer. Finding and enrolling eligible patients in clinical trials is difficult, and less than five percent of cancer patients are participating in a trial, according to IBM. Watson for Clinical Trial Matching is designed to complete the data-intensive process of matching patients with clinical trials, and provide doctors the information they need to advise their patients about relevant studies.

For example, after a clinician submits a patient’s unique health information, Watson will analyze the patient’s data against clinical trial databases to provide clinicians with information regarding a patient’s eligibility for a specific trial, according to IBM.

"Clinical trials are at the heart of all medical advances to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. However, no two people and no two cancers are alike,” James Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., oncologist and medical director, Froedtert & MCW Cancer Clinical Trials Office and Translational Research Unit, said in a statement. He is also a professor of hematology-oncology at MCW. “Watson will support a higher level of personalized care for our patients by enabling us to securely connect individual health information with a vast array of clinical trials. By matching clinical trials to more patients with a high degree of precision, we believe Watson will help us fulfill our mission to advance the health of our community through scientific discovery."

Clinical trials offer patients access to investigational and emerging treatments. Often, enrolling participants in trials can be challenging. For example, a clinical trial for a new breast cancer treatment may require more than100 patients who meet specific criteria, such as a certain genetic marker, age range, tumor stage or treatment history.

Froedtert & MCW physicians and researchers conducted 220 cancer clinical trials in 2015. In addition, according to clinicaltrials.gov, an international registry of clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health, approximately 53,000 cancer clinical trials are ongoing nationally at any given time.

IBM is working with Froedtert & MCW leaders to implement a version of Watson for Clinical Trial Matching tailored to the needs of the Froedtert & MCW Cancer Network, which includes four locations in southeastern Wisconsin.

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Patient care organizations are moving forward to connect the academic research arms of their universities to the patient care delivery operations in their clinical organizations. And that is leading both to opportunities and challenges.

On the opportunity side, genomic data is now actively being used for rare disease diagnosis; for cancer detection; for the tracking of mutations; and for medication selection for patients.

But the data challenges involved in working with genomic data, particularly in participating in any activities connecting genomics to patient care, are many, and complex.

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Microsoft Healthcare Rolls Out FHIR Server for Azure

November 13, 2018
by David Raths, Contributing Editor
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Developers could use the server to quickly ingest and manage FHIR datasets in the cloud

Microsoft Healthcare has announced the release of an open source project, FHIR Server for Azure, to offer developers access to software that supports the exchange and management of data in the cloud via the FHIR specification.

FHIR Server for Azure on GitHub provides support infrastructure for immediate provisioning in the cloud, including mapping to Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), and the ability to enable role-based access controls (RBAC), the company said. Developers can save time when they need to integrate a FHIR server into an application or use it as a foundation to customize a unique FHIR service.

In a blog post, Heather Jordan Cartwright, general manager of Microsoft Healthcare, said the company “is contributing this open source project to make it easier for all organizations working with healthcare data to leverage the power of the cloud for clinical data processing and machine learning workloads.”

In August 2018, Microsoft joined with Amazon, Google, IBM and other companies in a commitment to remove barriers for the adoption of technologies that support healthcare interoperability, particularly those that are enabled through the cloud and AI and especially FHIR.

Among the points the companies agreed to was: “We understand that achieving frictionless health data exchange is an ongoing process, and we commit to actively engaging among open source and open standards communities for the development of healthcare standards, and conformity assessment to foster agility to account for the accelerated pace of innovation.” 

As an example of how FHIR Server for Azure will work, Microsoft said developers can use the server to quickly ingest and manage FHIR datasets in a cloud environment, track and manage data access, and begin to normalize data for machine-learning workloads.

In August, Josh Mandel, chief architect of Microsoft Healthcare, noted that the company had added support for FHIR to the Dynamics Business Application Platform through the Dynamics 365 Healthcare Accelerator, and developed an open source Azure Security and Compliance Blueprint for Health Data and AI for deploying a FHIR-enabled, HIPAA/HITRUST environment in Azure.

 

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