IBM Watson Health, VA extend cancer research partnership

The Department of Veterans Affairs and IBM Watson Health are expanding their partnership to bring artificial intelligence-powered technology to support precision oncology at VA facilities, the organizations confirmed July 19.

The announcement extends the VA's public-private partnership with IBM, which was first launched two years ago with the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, through June 2019.

Under the agreement, VA oncologists can leverage IBM Watson for Genomics to support the practice of biologically directed cancer care known as precision oncology. By understanding the cancer's DNA, oncologists are able to select more targeted therapies for  each patient.

In 2015, VA established a central "hub" in Durham, N.C., to help treat more than 2,700 veterans with stage 4 cancer who have exhausted other treatment options. VA oncologists and pathologists sequence tumors' DNA and use AI to analyze the data, identify relevant mutations and devise treatments to target those mutations.  

"Our mission with VA's precision oncology program is to bring the most advanced treatment opportunities to Veterans, in hopes of giving our nation's heroes better treatments through these breakthroughs," Acting VA Secretary Peter O'Rourke said in a news release. "We look forward to continuing this strategic partnership to assist VA in providing the best care for our Veterans."

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