Babu Guda, PhD, associate professor and director of the Bioinformatics Systems Biology Core Facility at UNMC, will collaborate with Ken Cowan, MD, PhD, director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, to analyze cancer tumor genomes on the project.

Babu Guda, PhD, associate professor and director of the Bioinformatics Systems Biology Core Facility at UNMC, will collaborate with Ken Cowan, MD, PhD, director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, to analyze cancer tumor genomes on the project.

The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center is one of 14 leading cancer institutes to partner with IBM in conducting early testing and feedback from IBM’s Watson Genomic Analytics program.

In minutes, the program identifies relevant mutations and potential drugs that may be considered in a treatment regime – all based on the patient’s genomic profile and the specific mutations.

Babu Guda, PhD, associate professor and director of the Bioinformatics Systems Biology Core Facility at University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), is collaborating with Ken Cowan, MD, PhD, director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center and breast cancer physician, to analyze cancer tumor genomes on the project.

“IBM has fed millions of research articles into the program, including biomedical research and clinical information,” Dr. Guda says. “The cognitive computer can keep track of the complex relationships among gene mutations, drug treatments and treatment outcomes.”

IBM describes cognitive computing as computers that learn and interact naturally with people to extend what either humans or machines could do on their own to help human experts make better decisions.

With each patient, the cancer center team is sequencing the genomes of normal and tumor tissues and identifying variations that are specific to the tumor tissues. Tumors can have many mutations, but some – “driver mutations” – are critical for the initiation and progression of cancer.

“Typically, we get several thousands (of variations),” Dr. Guda says. “Not every change is important, but some driver mutations or other serious mutations that alter cellular function may give a selective advantage for cancer cells to proliferate and spread the disease to distant locations.”

Steve Harvey, vice president, IBM Watson Health, says Watson will help deliver personalized cancer care using the latest advances in science by integrating complex and disparate data in a cognitive system. “Ultimately, our goal is to create a solution that any oncologist in any location can use to identify personalized treatment options for their patients,” he says.

Dr. Gold discusses the IBM Watson project with Dr. Guda >>

UNMC researchers using IBM Watson to conduct breast cancer study
– article by the Omaha World-Herald