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New Watson-powered service aimed at advancing precision cancer treatments

IBM is partnering with Quest Diagnostics to bring Watson for Genomics to community oncologists, who provide an estimated 70 percent of cancer care in the US.

IBM announced Monday that it's partnering with Quest Diagnostics to advance precision medicine in the treatment of cancer across the US.

With the launch of a new service called IBM Watson Genomics from Quest Diagnostics, the two companies are combining Watson's cognitive computing power with Quest's expertise in tumor analysis. The service is also supported by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), which will give Watson access to OncoKB, its database of clinical evidence. The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard are also providing additional genome sequencing capabilities.

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The new service uses laboratory sequencing and analysis of a tumor's genomic makeup to identify mutations that can be associated with targeted therapies and clinical trials. Watson compares those mutations against relevant medical literature, clinical studies, and other data. Watson for Genomics ingests approximately 10,000 scientific articles and 100 new clinical trials every month. The process of reviewing all of the relevant data typically takes medical experts weeks.

"Precision medicine is changing the way we treat cancer and giving new hope to people living with the disease," said Dr. Jay G. Wohlgemuth, chief medical officer and senior vice president at Quest Diagnostics, in a statement. "However, access to genomic sequencing and tumor analysis required to determine appropriate precision medicine treatments for a patient can be a challenge... This is a powerful combination that we believe it will leap frog conventional genomic services as a better approach for identifying targeted oncology treatments."

By partnering with Quest, IBM is for the first time making Watson for Genomics widely available to patients and physicians across the country; Quest provides genomic sequencing capabilities and oncology diagnostics for half of the nation's physicians and hospitals. Quest works with the community oncologists who provide an estimated 70 percent of cancer care in the US. Earlier this year, IBM announced it was partnering with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to use Watson-powered genomic sequencing to treat veterans with cancer.

"Through this collaboration with the cancer community's leading clinical and pathology experts, thousands of more patients can potentially benefit from the world's growing body of knowledge about this disease," said John Kelly III, senior vice president of IBM Research and Cognitive Solutions, in a statement.

The new service was announced the same day IBM reported solid third quarter earnings, showing that its investment in Watson and other new businesses is starting to show results. Its "strategic imperatives" revenue, which includes areas like Watson and its Internet of Things business, came to $8 billion.

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