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Smart technology to assist cancer treatment

By Wang Xiaodong | China Daily | Updated: 2016-10-12 06:55

Doctors in some of China's major hospitals may have a new tool soon that can help them provide personalized treatment options to cancer patients.

Watson for Oncology, a cognitive computing platform - a sort of super brain developed by IBM - is expected to be put into service in November at 22 major hospitals, including Wuxi People's Hospital in Jiangsu province, and Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, according to Yao Wan, a marketing manager at Hangzhou CognitiveCare Co, a company in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, that cooperated with IBM to introduce the technology to China.

"We are providing training for doctors on how to use the platform in Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Beijing," she said.

The platform is designed to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of some commonly seen cancers, such as breast cancer and lung cancer, she said.

Cancer is a leading cause of death in China, and its incidence has been increasing. Last year there were 4.3 million new cancer cases, and more than 2.8 million deaths attributed to the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

A lot more work needs to be done before Watson for Oncology can be used in most hospitals, Yao said.

The system is currently available only in English.

Hangzhou CognitiveCare will provide some translation support to ensure that Watson's treatment insights, including drug labels and treatment guidelines, also are available in Mandarin, Yao said.

However, computers can only aid doctors in making treatment decisions, not replace them; and new technologies that are developed overseas have limitations in China, said Zhi Xiuyi, an expert in lung cancer at Xuanwu Hospital in Beijing.

"Chinese have different genes from people of other countries, and treatment methods may vary," he said. "They may bring some benefits but may not entirely fit Chinese patients."

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