IBM Watson's diagnosis of rare leukemia saves woman in Japan
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IBM Watson's diagnosis of rare leukemia saves woman in Japan

por Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
A woman in Japan with a rare type of leukemia was “saved” by a 10-minute consult with Watson.

The IBM artificial intelligence system correctly identified her disease after doctors using conventional methods were stumped, according to NDTV.

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The 60-year-old woman's condition was then treated successfully using different therapy, Arinobu Tojo, a member of the medical team at the University of Tokyo's Institute of Medical Science told Efe news.

Watson, which first “entered” medical school in 2011, turned its attention to the woman's case. It first sifted through the patient's data, then matched it to 20 million clinical cancer studies.

It differed with human physicians' diagnoses based on this analysis.

Human doctors has thought that she was suffering from acute myeloid leukemia – but therapy for that disorder had failed to help and she had shown no improvement.

But the woman has responded to therapy for the rare leukemia diagnosed by Watson.

AI like Watson could dramatically alter modern medical diagnosis by enabling a “big data” approach, unattainable by humans due to the volume of information that would have to be processed. In fact, this AI-assisted diagnosis in the near future could “change the world,” Satoru Miyano, a Professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Science, told Techworm.

The dramatic Watson-assisted diagnosis, the first such application of AI in Japan to date, noted Seiji Yamada, of the National Institute of Informatics and chairman of the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence, is “the most practical application in the field of medical and health care for artificial intelligence.”

But the life-saving AI effort in Japan is by no means the only example of Watson's success “in the field”.

In early august a 37-year-old Indian programmer with a rare type of fast-spreading breast cancer was “seen” by Watson in Bengaluru, India, according to The Hindu.

Oncologist Dr. Somashekhar S. P., gave the AI system her gene data and records, and in a minute, the IBM software delivered a number of treatment options, including assessing her tumor.

“At the click of a button 15 million pages are scanned,” the chairman of surgical oncology and the head of department at the Manipal Comprehensive Cancer Center in Bengaluru, told the paper. “Besides my team, there is one more unbiased person (Watson) whose thinking capacity is infinite,” he said.

Treated with the Watson-suggested therapies the young woman has responded well – her tumor shrinking sufficiently to permit physicians to remove the cancerous tissue surgically.

“The most beautiful thing about it is that it not only comes up with the best treatment but also gives evidence,” said Somashekhar.

After Watson “graduated” medical school, “attending” both Columbia University and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where it was loaded up with millions of cases and research papers, as well as sessions with physicians to fine-tune its responses, it became available to doctors in 2013. According to the New York Daily News, IBM reported that Watson's performance "improved by 240 percent during those years."

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