VA Announces IBM Collaboration

Veterans suffer disproportionately high rates of cancer diagnosis and mortality and as a large integrated health system, the VA serves 3.5 percent of the nation’s cancer patients. The VA has teamed up with IBM Watson Health through a partnership arrangement to hopefully increase access to precision medicine for 10,000 VA cancer patients over the next two years.

“Genetic alterations are responsible for most cancers, but it remains challenging for most clinicians to deliver on the promise of precision medicine due to the sheer volume of data surrounding each decision that needs to be made,” said VA’s Under Secretary for Health, Dr. David J. Shulkin.

IBM’s Watson for Genomics technology is going to provide information to physicians to help them identify precision treatment options for almost 30 times more patients than could previously be served.

Scientists and pathologists will sequence DNA for cancer patients, and then feed de-identified genetic alteration files into Watson. At that point, Watson will generate a report for physicians that identifies likely cancer-causing mutations and possible treatment options.

The information will target specific mutations through a comprehensive review of existing medical literature. Watson will rank the list of potential therapies by levels of evidence and provide links to associated research and clinical trials for physicians to consider.

Early results from academic medical centers using Watson, show that the technology provides insights that match what a team of scientist and clinicians on a molecular tumor board would uncover when analyzing genome sequencing data.

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