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Quest to treat cancer patients using Watson tech

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Secaucus-based Quest Diagnostics is using IBM’s Watson Genomics technology to provide tumor gene sequencing and match it with treatments.

The approach, which employs a form of artificial intelligence, is being offered to patients of New York-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Lidia Fonseca, Quest’s chief information officer, said the service identifies DNA variants in a tumor, and matches those variants with optimal therapies and clinical trials identified by Watson based on research, including clinical data from MSK Cancer Center.

The genomics report produced by Quest is given to a physician, who can use to it to determine the best course of treatment.

“Artificial intelligence being a cancer-focused tool, that’s one of our pilot programs and an area that’s important to us,” said Fonseca, who attended a White House Summit on AI applications May 10.

“We examine a cancer patient’s tumor’s list of mutations and run it through IBM Watson’s curation engine, which will tell us what’s available in terms of research,” she said. “Then we deliver reports to provide results from genetic sequencing and compare those results with anything that MSK has developed for that particular type of cancer.

“… If you think about a cancer care provider’s experience, they’re dealing with a lack of time. So bringing that research together for them allows them to more quickly diagnose a patient and have more personal interaction with them.”

Quest’s work in the AI space doesn’t end with cancer care, Fonseca said. The company also is exploring new technologies that focus on care qualities.

“We have a number of AI projects across a number of business areas at a high level, such as clinical care drug development,” she said. “We also see AI as an opportunity to advance clinical trials, bioinformatics and diagnostic insights.”

Quest provides diagnostic information services to about one in three adults and one in two physicians and health systems in the U.S. annually. Those services provide insights from raw lab and other health data gleaned from the company’s Quanum Portfolio of Data analytics and health care information technologies.

The Quanum brand includes electronic health records data and lab utilization services to help health care providers implement and maintain population health programs. The company’s MyQuest mobile application, which has about 5.5 million subscribers, helps consumers track health data, pay bills and make appointments, including at any of Quest’s 2,200 patient service centers in the U.S.

“For providers, we offer the Quanum EHR management solution. This gives them the ability to see a patient over time to identify risk. Then for insurance companies, we have a number of capabilities in our Quanum suite of quality metrics that provide them with the ability to create scorecards for patients, and allows them to see how their members are performing over time.”

Quest’s technology also will help it in its new alliance with UnitedHealthcare. The two companies will collaborate on value-based programs, aligned incentives and enhanced lab services.

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Vince Calio

Vince Calio

Vince Calio covers health care and manufacturing for NJBIZ. You can contact him at vcalio@njbiz.com.

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