Here’s how the process is expected to work. Once a patient is diagnosed with glioblastoma, the NYGC will get a tumor sample. Researchers there will sequence the tumor’s genome, and analyze it to come up with a set of mutations that look like the 'drivers' for that specific patient’s tumor, Bloom says. Researchers will then feed that list of mutations into Watson, which will do all of the computational dirty work to find a list of drugs that would target them specifically.
Watson’s job will be 'to do the literature search, the drug database search, and find all the relationships between those specific mutations and drugs that are available or maybe in clinical trials that they can find, or even drugs that are related to the pathways that those mutations are associated with,' Bloom says.
From there, a team of neurologists and pharmacologists will look over the list of drugs that Watson generates, pick a set of them that they think would best work together, and recommend those to the patient’s doctor. Should the patient decide to follow the recommended regimen, the NYGC will track his condition, the rate at which the tumors spread, etc.—and then start feeding that information back into Watson.
'So we’ll be giving Watson back information about combinations of mutations, combinations of drugs, and the outcomes of using those drugs on those mutations,' Bloom says. 'That’s a very complex set of associations, and we’re hoping that Watson, and Watson’s learning model, can then find information in that that we can not see so fast.'
The study hasn’t started as of yet, but the hope is that as more patients start undergoing treatment, and more data is fed to Watson, the computer will find things researchers wouldn’t, and 'we can iterate more quickly and improve care more quickly,' Bloom says. Assuming the lists Watson produces leads to treatment regimens that helps patients keep tumors in check longer, and live longer—which has yet to be seen—the project would then expand. Presumably, Watson would also be used by other genome centers as well (the NYGC does not have an exclusive license).
'There are 1,700 glioblastoma patients in NY every year,' Bloom says. 'So there’s a lot to be done in New York.'" (Source).
#NYGCWatson analyzes the human genome to battle brain cancer. pic.twitter.com/l4AhfBXlHp
— Julianna Maniscalco (@jul_maniscalco) March 19, 2014
#NYGCWatson project began when Bob Darnell of @nygenome went to IBM and presented "vision" for glioblastoma studyUnderstanding the biology of the disease:
— Bio-IT World (@bioitworld) March 19, 2014