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IBM Watson to help researchers unearth data on tumors’ drug resistant to treatment


The five-year, $50 million project will study thousands of drug resistant tumors and draw on Watson\'s computational and machine learning methods to help researchers understand how cancers become resistant to therapies.

By Team ABLE

IBM Watson Health and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have announced a research initiative aimed at discovering the basis of cancer drug resistance. The five year, $50 million project will study thousands of drug resistant tumors and draw on Watson\'s computational and machine learning methods to help researchers understand how cancers become resistant to therapies. The anonymized data will be made available to the scientific community to catalyze research worldwide.

While a growing number of cancer treatments can hold cancers in check for months or years, most cancers eventually recur. This is in part because they acquire mutations that make them drug resistant. The development of drug resistance is a major cause of nearly 600,000 annual cancer deaths in the United States alone. In a limited number of cases, scientists have discovered the cause of drug resistance, allowing the development of new drugs to overcome resistance. In most cases, however, the causes of drug resistance are not fully understood.

To help understand how cancers become resistant to specific therapies, Broad Institute will generate tumor genome sequence data from patients who initially respond to treatment but who then become drug-resistant. Broad will use new genome-editing methods to conduct large-scale cancer drug resistance studies in the laboratory, to help identify tumors\' specific vulnerabilities. IBM scientists will use Watson to analyze this data and identify genomic patterns that may help researchers and clinicians predict drug sensitivity and resistance.

This new partnership is expected to help lay a new foundation for understanding the basis of drug resistance in cancer – especially the genetic mechanisms observed in patients – and accelerate research across the cancer community to turn knowledge of resistance mechanisms into therapies.