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Dr. Courtney DiNardo

Dr. Courtney DiNardo, Clinician Researcher,
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

By Dr. Courtney DiNardo

A few weeks ago, after I started one of my leukemia patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center on a standard course of chemotherapy, my patient developed a potentially life-threatening complication that sometimes occurs during leukemia treatment. It’s called tumor lysis syndrome. If not treated proactively, it can cause kidney failure, a heart attack and even death. A computing system based on IBM’s Watson technology that we’re currently piloting alerted me to the situation. I took action immediately. He’s okay now.

At an advanced cancer treatment center like MD Anderson, we likely would have spotted my patient’s problem early enough to respond in time without the help of a computer. However, in a community hospital, physicians who don’t see as many leukemia patients or have our expertise might not have noticed in time. The technology will definitely save lives.

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This is a dramatic example of how cognitive computing technology has the potential to help improve medical care—benefitting not just patients and doctors but the entire healthcare system. I believe that the technology will help me accomplish my long-term career goal as a physician: to know enough about a particular patient’s cancer to provide exactly the right treatment for that individual. It’s the ultimate in personalized medicine.

My group helped train Watson to play its advisory role at MD Anderson. We are now in the testing and evaluation phase of this technology in the clinic with our patients. Watson will never take the place of a physician, but it can provide us with a treasure trove of information and expert guidance.

This approach offers several benefits. The system gathers information and presents it to the physician in summary form—but then allows you to drill down deep to see the evidence upon which it bases its recommendations. It provides an expert second opinion, if you will.

It’s a time saver. Last week, when one of my colleagues was out of town, I filled in and met with one of his patients—one with a complicated condition that needed a management decision. Under normal circumstances, it may have taken me all afternoon to prepare for the meeting with enough insight to provide the most appropriate treatment decisions. With Watson, I am able to get a patients history, characteristics, and treatment recommendations based on my patients unique characteristics in seconds.

At the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Assistant Professor of Leukemia Dr. Courtney DiNardo uses IBM's Watson cognitive system while consulting with patient Rich Ware, on October 18, 2013. Starting with the fight against Leukemia, IBM's Watson will help MD Anderson physicians develop, observe and fine tune cancer treatment plans, match patients with clinical trials and recognize adverse effects during ongoing care.  For more information: John Natale, 617-875-3658.  (Credit: Thomas Shea/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

At the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Assistant Professor of Leukemia Dr. Courtney DiNardo uses IBM’s Watson cognitive system while consulting with patient Rich Ware, on October 18, 2013. Starting with the fight against Leukemia, IBM’s Watson will help MD Anderson physicians develop, observe and fine tune cancer treatment plans, match patients with clinical trials and recognize adverse effects during ongoing care. For more information: John Natale, 617-875-3658. (Credit: Thomas Shea/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

The system is a health monitor. As I described at the beginning of this blog post, Watson can keep track of streams of information about a patient’s condition and alert physicians when something seems to be amiss.

The Watson system can also match individual patients who have not responded to conventional treatment in clinical trials that might be appropriate for them.

As we physicians interact with Watson, it learns and gets better at its job. There’s an annotation feature that allows us to type feedback to the system when it doesn’t draw on all of the evidence we need when we’re considering a diagnosis or treatment issue.

In the future, I expect this technology to help us discover new and better treatments for specific genetic abnormalities or associations of genetic changes. It will be able to help us evaluate rare or complex patient conditions and identify drugs that have already been approved for other uses that might also help in the situations we’re dealing with.

After spending much of my life training to be an oncologist, I’m now operating at the cutting edge of leukemia research and treatment. I’m grateful to have a new generation of genetics and computing tools at my fingertips when I take on the challenges that come at us every day at MD Anderson. I look forward to the day when we can say that we have conquered cancer.

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To learn more about the new era of computing, read a free chapter of the new book, Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Systems.
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9 Comments
 
June 2, 2014
12:37 pm

Excellent post! We are linking to this great article on our
website. Keep up the good writing.


Posted by: effects of cigarette smoking
 
February 20, 2014
4:07 pm

i always check my self to keep away from this disease…. hope i didnt get this disease…

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Posted by: jimmy
 
February 7, 2014
2:20 am

It is good to hear about Technology helping in better patient care.

However I would have preferred Technology to be used to Prevent people from becoming patients in the first place.

For example has a study been done to check the similarities of the DNA sequencing of all Cancer patients treated or being treated.

A recent study of John Hopkins says that All Human beings have cancer cells. However their growth is triggered based on some conditions. May be technology can used to study the triggering mechanism.

A study of the lifestyles of the patients(not just in US) will go a long way in developing preventive care.

Personally I think Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy are just a big waste. The only beneficiaries are the Pharma companies manufacturing the drugs and not the patients.

This I say after personal witnessing cancer treatments in the immediate family.


Posted by: Murthy
 
January 10, 2014
1:16 am

This actually makes me think of a recent story I just read that came all the way from South Korea. A team of researchers at the Chonnam National University in Gwangju are developing nanorobots that can seek out and directly treat cancer tumors. This would eliminate the collateral damage that can be caused by chemotherapy and other debilitating treatment options.


Posted by: Stephen Knows Cancer
 
December 27, 2013
10:59 am

An attention-grabbing discussion is price comment. I believe that it is best to write more on this subject, it may not be a taboo subject but typically persons are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers


Posted by: Leroy Gravino
 
December 23, 2013
2:28 pm

It occurred to me today that there is another resource that MD Anderson and Watson could potentially take advantage of – internet forums related to Leukemia. Patients on these forums track their ongoing conditions for years post treatment. Watson could be used in concert with Master Data Management and Data Explorer to track patient self-reports online capturing information that might not get mentioned during appointments. These online self-reports might bring to light recurring situations that have previously been overlooked.

While it won’t necessarily provide an answer today, it might provide insight that leads to new answers in the future.


Posted by: Roxanne
 
November 15, 2013
1:36 am

What more could i have need in life when i was healed by Dr. Iroko who helped me with the herbal medicine which i used for my bone cancer. it was already stage 5 and i thought death was the only option for me. But God used my son to help me who saw on the internet that there is a Dr. called Iroko who can help cure my sickness even when it was already at stage 5 i contacted this man and tell him my problems and told me to come down that i will be fine. He sent me a herbal medicine which i bought from him and he told me to drink from it 2 times a day which i did and he told me that if i do that for a week i will be fine. The first time i took from the herb i know i will be heal cause i feel the reaction of the drug, i five days time i was ok and i called him and told him that my pains where gone he told me that i need to make sure i take it for the remaining 2 days and i did and now my pains are gone. When my situation was too big for the hospital i run to dr. iroko and i will forever be grateful to him. His contact email is

herbalbestsolution23@hotmail.com


Posted by: Raids
 
October 22, 2013
4:31 am

The second reader system you introduce in your blog sounds very thrilling. From my experience as clinical oncologist I can confirm that there is always a potential risk for loss of current information when a new collegue takes over the responsibility for many patients e.g. in a night-shift. Having a system at hand that could instantly provide you with all the necessary informations could come handy one day. Right now I guess there is still a lot of time and work to be put into the new system, before it proves applicable for daily use in every hospital. Good luck for your further work.


Posted by: Dr. Kuczer
 
October 21, 2013
2:18 am

Can the data be used to querry? For example the fasting blood sugar levels, Insulin, HB A1c levels before detection, after detection and results?

If this works then why not look at heart disease, infections, nuro diseases?

Maybe even predictions of higher frequency of an accident? Why not? Eric


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