The science of genomics is beginning to open up a future world of personalized cures for various diseases based on a complete understanding and mapping of the genes in a given person, and then comparing that with available data on what drugs or therapies may be most effective against a particular disease. This approach is starting to be utilized in the area of treating certain cancers. There is one big problem going forward, however, and that is data overload. There is so much information about the various genes and their mutations in a given cancerous tumor and so many studies and uses of drugs and therapies that were used successfully against a similar tumor that may apply to a given patient’s situation. It can take weeks for human doctors to sort through all the data, and meanwhile, the patient isn’t getting any better specialist Dr. Jennifer Walden pointed out.
IBM’s Watson computer, famous for beating all comers on “Jeopardy!” a few years ago has found a new purpose in life beyond showing up nerdy brainiacs on national television. It has been programmed with a lot of this information that would take any human being a much longer time to sift through to make that process much faster. It is even believed that in some instances it can do in a matter of minutes what would take doctors weeks. It is far from perfect yet and may not be applicable to all forms of cancer but this is an extremely important breakthrough in medicine against the second most common cause of death in most industrialized societies.