Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cure for Cancer: It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson!

“Excellent!” Watson said.

“Elementary, “ said Holmes.

Sir Author Conan Doyle (1859-1930), The Crooked Man

Sherlock Holmes never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson!” But never mind.

What’s important is the gist of what he said and what’s happening now. Fourteen major cancer centers have teamed up with IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, to pursue and win the race against cancer. And it’s always a race, to kill the cancer before the cancer kills the patient.

And why not? If IBM’s Watson can win at chess against the world’s best chess masters and beat Jeopardy winners, why not try to cure cancer by near instant analysis of the a cancerous tumor’s genome and scouring of the world’s medical literature to find out what works ? Why not use “cognitive computing” to solve cancer’s mysteries? Why not treat IBM’s Watson as a “capable and knowledgeable colleague ,” to use an IBM’s executive phase?

Finding the answers to these question is the basis for a statement in President Obama’s statement in his January 20, 2015 State of the Union address.

“Tonight, I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes – and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.”

In the words of Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D, of NIH, and Harold Vrmus, M.D. of the National Cancer Institute,

“With sufficient resources and a strong, sustained commitment of time, energy, and ingenuity from the scientific, medical, and patient communities the full potential of precision medicine can ultimately be realized to give everyone the best change at good health” ( “A New Initiative on Precision Medicine,” New England Journal of Medicine,” February 26, 2015).

And while we’re waiting fo the cure, keep these words in mind “cognitive computing,” “DNA-genetics,” and “personalized precision medicine.” The words may signal the future of health care. And with the help of 14 major cancer centers, it may become a reality quicker than you think.

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