Improved cancer care supported by artificial intelligence

22 studies presented at the 2019 American Society for Clinical Oncology show how artificial intelligence could improve cancer clinical decision support.

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IBM Watson Health (London, UK) has presented 22 studies at the 2019 American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO; 31 May–4 June, IL, USA) annual meeting that demonstrate improved cancer care decision making when artificial intelligence (AI) was employed.

Over 70 peer-reviewed works reveal that AI helps better inform clinicians and patients on available treatment options that are supported by real-world evidence.

This enhances patient understanding of their condition, trust in their treatment options and plans, and, helps identify interventions that may have been manually overlooked. Patient adherence to treatment plans is also elevated when AI is incorporated into their treatment plans, compared to patients whom had not had this technology incorporated.

As Nathan Levithan, Chief Medical Officer for Oncology and Genomics at IBM Watson Health, commented: "AI is helping multidisciplinary tumor boards make more informed decisions based on curated scientific evidence; it is surfacing critical insights and information that is not identified manually; and it is helping to improve patient satisfaction by delivering a comprehensive view of treatment options."

Levithan continued: "In this early era of AI use in healthcare decision-making, the studies presented at ASCO this year offer compelling evidence of the important role this technology will play in helping oncologists improve cancer treatment for each individual patient,"

For example, in a blinded review of 1000 patients with breast, lung and colorectal cancer, in India, 13.6% of patients had their cancer care modified following employment of Watson for Oncology – Watson Health’s prime AI asset.

In 55% of these instances, where cancer care was changed, this was due to Watson for Oncology revealing new available treatments.

A further 30% of changes resulted from the AI identifying a more personalized alternative treatment for the patient.

AI may benefit patients indirectly too by relieving oncologist burden. Clinicians can simply supplement the information provided from AI with their expert opinion and provide the most accurate, appropriate and timely information to patients. Patient—clinician relationships may be strengthened as a result.

Indeed, SP Somashekhar, lead study investigator and Chairman of Surgical Oncology at Manipal Hospitals (Bangalore, India), commented that the data “suggests that AI decision support holds substantial promise to reduce the cognitive burden on oncologists, which is a significant problem impacting physician burnout today.,"


Somashekhar SP, Sepúlveda MJ, Shortliffe EH et al. A prospective blinded study of 1000 cases analyzing the role of artificial intelligence: Watson for oncology and change in decision making of a Multidisciplinary Tumor Board (MDT) from a tertiary care cancer center. Presented at American Society of Clinical Oncology, Chicago, IL, USA, 31 May – 4 Jun 2019 (Abstract 6533);

Wang Z, Yu Z, Zhang X. Artificial intelligence-based clinical decision-support system improves cancer treatment and patient satisfaction. In conjunction with American Society of Clinical Oncology, Chicago, IL, USA, 31 May – 4 Jun 2019 (Abstract e18303)

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Ilana Landau

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