MD Anderson may sever IBM Watson partnership: 4 things to know

Houston-based MD Anderson Cancer Center has put its oncology collaboration with IBM Watson on hold, according to Forbes.

In October 2013, MD Anderson and IBM announced the development of Oncology Expert Advisor, a clinical decision support technology powered by IBM Watson. However, this initiative was benched late last year, and MD Anderson is actively looking to other contractors to potentially replace IBM's role in the project, according to Forbes.

Here are four things to know.

1. In a report titled Special Review of Procurement Procedures Related to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Oncology Expert Advisor Project, the University of Texas System Administration said the project cost more than $62.1 million.

MD Anderson, which would have owned Oncology Expert Advisor, funded the project research. The $62.1 million figure includes payments made to external firms for planning, project management and development for the Oncology Expert Advisor product. It does not account for internal resources such as staff time, technology infrastructure or administrative support.

2. The report also noted that Oncology Expert Advisor did not reach many of its goals. The project focus changed multiple times and pilot tests at additional hospitals never took place, according to Forbes.

"When it was appropriate to do so, the project was placed on hold," an MD Anderson spokesperson told Forbes. "As a public institution, we decided to go out to the marketplace for competitive bids to see where the industry has progressed."

3. IBM has stood by the Oncology Expert Advisor, and an IBM spokesperson told Forbes that "[t]he OEA R&D project was a success, and likely could have been deployed had MD Anderson chosen to take it forward." The Oncology Expert Advisor's recommendations for physicians agreed with experts 90 percent of the time, according to IBM.

The University of Texas System Administration report likewise acknowledges that "[r]esults stated herein should not be interpreted as an opinion on the scientific basis or functional capabilities of the system in its current state."

4. The Oncology Expert Advisor, in many ways, is similar to another oncology clinical decision support technology that was trained at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. This commercial product uses the same technology, according to Forbes, and has already been deployed at hospitals in the United States and abroad.

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