IBM Watson Health (NYSE:IBM) and the Broad Institute said today that they’ve launched a research initiative with the hopes of discovering the basis for cancer drug resistance.
The 5 year, $50 million collaboration will utilize the genetic information of thousands of drug resistant tumors and Watson’s machine learning methods to help understand the underlying mechanisms that drive cancer drug resistance. The resulting data will be made available to scientific community, according to the group.
Nearly 600,000 annual cancer deaths in the U.S. are caused by drug resistance, according to the groups. Despite the growing number of treatments that provide therapy from cancer for months at a time, most cancers eventually recur because they develop genetic mutations that make them resistant to treatment.
The Broad Institute will generate tumor genome sequence data from patients who have a cancer that is drug-resistant. To identify the tumors’ vulnerabilities, the Institute will conduct large-scale cancer drug resistance studies using genome-editing methods.
Then, IBM researchers will use Watson to identify genomic patterns that could be used to predict drug sensitivity and resistance.
“Defeating cancer involves playing a high-stakes game of biological chess. When we make a move with a therapy, cancer often responds with a counter-move by finding a way to become resistant. The key will be learning from clinical experience, so that we know cancer’s moves in advance and can plan strategies to cut off its escape routes,” Broad Institute founding director Eric Lander said in prepared remarks. “Knowing how cancers can become resistant will ultimately require learning from hundreds of thousands of patients’ experiences. We’re proud to work with IBM to make an important start toward this goal, and to make the information broadly available to the scientific community.”
“The Broad Institute is leading the industry in areas of cancer biology, genomics and computational biology, and we are proud to bring Watson’s data prowess to help researchers learn more about one of most important medical challenges that too often stands in the way of effective cancer treatment,” Cognitive Solutions & IBM Research senior VP John Kelly III added. “Watson is already being used in the clinic to aid clinicians in cancer care. Our hope is that this effort, if successful, could eventually lead to significant breakthroughs. Someday, patients who would not otherwise have options in their battle against cancer may have reason for hope.”
“Currently, cancer researchers have access to genomic information from only a few hundred drug-resistant cancers samples. In addition to the goals of this specific study, IBM and Broad are committed to advancing cancer research by sharing the data from thousands of tumor samples with the scientific community to accelerate progress everywhere against cancer,” Broad Institute CSO & founder of the cancer program Dr. Todd Golub said. “What we and many others will learn with this information will have important implications for the future of cancer precision medicine and cancer diagnostics.”