IBM Watson and Quest Diagnostics Launch Genomic Sequencing Service Using Data from MSK

On October 18, IBM Watson Health and Quest Diagnostics announced the launch of IBM Watson Genomics from Quest Diagnostics, a new service that helps advance precision medicine by combining cognitive computing with genomic tumor sequencing. Memorial Sloan Kettering will supplement Watson’s corpus of scientific data with OncoKB, a precision oncology knowledge base, to help inform individual treatment options for cancer patients.

The new service involves laboratory sequencing and analysis of a tumor’s genomic makeup to help reveal mutations that can be associated with targeted therapies and clinical trials. Watson then compares those mutations against relevant medical literature, clinical studies, pharmacopeia, and carefully annotated rules created by leading oncologists, including those from MSK. Watson for Genomics ingests approximately 10,000 scientific articles and 100 new clinical trials every month.

Bolstering the corpus of data Watson uses, MSK will provide OncoKB, a database of clinical evidence that will help Watson uncover treatment options that could target the specific genetic abnormalities that are causing the growth of the cancer. Comparison of literature that may take medical experts weeks to prepare can now be completed in significantly less time.

OncoKB was developed and is maintained through MSK’s Marie Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology, in partnership with Quest. It includes annotation for almost 3,000 unique variants in 418 cancer-associated genes and in 40 different tumor types, including descriptions of the effects of specific mutations as well as therapeutic implications.

The project is publicly accessible, meaning that researchers around the world have access to information about oncogenic effects and treatment implications of thousands of unique variants at their fingertips.

“We now know that genetic alterations are responsible for many cancers, but it remains challenging for most clinicians to deliver on the promise of precision medicine since it requires specialized expertise and a time-consuming interpretation of massive amounts of data,” said Paul Sabbatini, Deputy Physician-in-Chief for Clinical Research at MSK. “Through this collaboration, oncologists will have access to MSK’s expertly curated information about the effects and treatment implications of specific cancer gene alterations. This has the power to scale expertise and help improve patient care.”