IBM’s Watson supercomputer takes aim at brain cancer

IBM’s Watson supercomputer is being re-tasked to help clinicians create personalized treatments for a common form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma. The project, which is a collaboration between IBM and the New York Genome Center (NYGC), hopes to make use of Watson’s artificial intelligence to analyze vast quantities of data in order to suggest a personalized life-saving treatment based on the patient’s individual case.

Over the years, Watson has become faster and more compact. It differs from most ordinary computers in that, rather than simply observing patterns in data, Watson will actively learn and apply information to come to a reasoned hypothesis along with a level of confidence. Thus its cognitive process is more like that of a human being than a conventional computer. Furthermore, with the new Watson Discovery Advisor, the processing power and vast medical knowledge of Watson is accessible to clinicians via the cloud, allowing them to draw on the supercomputer’s analytical prowess from wherever they may be.

This is not the first time that Watson has been tasked with aiding in treatment for individuals suffering from cancer. The supercomputer was recently at work at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where it aided and received tutelage from the staff, amassing an impressive medical database.

How will it work?
Watson’s general knowledge is about as comprehensive as it gets, having access to the entire volume of Wikipedia as well as a wealth of information from other sources. However, it is Watson’s ability to understand natural language and sift through vast quantities of case studies and articles, learning as it goes, that will be the key to allowing doctors to tailor patient specific treatments. IBM is hoping to utilize the NYGC’s expertise in the field of genomics to further develop and streamline Watson’s cognitive reasoning in the field of oncology.

Watson will interpret genomic data from a set of patients diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer responsible for the deaths of around 13,000 Americans each year. The cloud-based prototype will attempt to expose the underlying genetic characteristics of this malignant cancer, using a combination of modern genomic analytics and its extensive bio-medical literature database.

Dr. Robert Darnell, CEO, President and Scientific Director of the NYGC, stated regarding the difficulties of targeted treatment that “The real challenge has been making sense of massive quantities of genetic data and translating research findings into better treatments and outcomes for patients.”

This is where Watson excels, applying its substantial computing power to observe gene sequence variations between ordinary and cancerous tumors. It consults clinical records and medical literature as it does so, swiftly giving doctors a variety of treatments to choose from, tailored to the patient’s individual instance of cancer.

Watson’s ability to achieve this task at a much higher speed than is otherwise possible, will prove to be greatly beneficial to those suffering from glioblastoma, as the general prognosis (depending on the spread of the cancer) is often less than one year. Ordinarily a significant portion of this time is spent interpreting the data manually to divine the best course of treatment. However, with Watson’s computing power, this can be achieved in a fraction of the time, allowing clinicians to begin life-saving treatment much sooner.

Dr. John E. Kelly, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research, believes that application of the cloud-based system will eventually extend beyond the targeted treatment of glioblastoma, stating that “With this knowledge, doctors will be able to attack cancer and other devastating diseases with treatments that are tailored to the patient’s and disease’s own DNA profiles. This is a major transformation that can help improve the lives of millions of patients around the world.”

The following video outlines how Watson will seek to streamline the current treatment process.

source: gizmag

New York City Investigates Measles Outbreak

New York City health officials said Friday they are investigating an outbreak of measles that’s made at least 16 people sick.

It might be part of a bigger national outbreak linked to the Philippines.

Health officials are quick to declare concern when they see someone with measles, which is one of the most contagious human diseases. Although it was once seen as a normal childhood infection, it’s easily prevented with a vaccine. And it should be, because fully a third of patients develop complications from the virus, including pneumonia, miscarriage and brain inflammation that can put patients into the hospital or even kill them.

About 90 percent of unvaccinated people will get infected if they’re exposed to it.

New York health officials say four infected children were too young to have been vaccinated and that parents had opted not to have two others vaccinated.

Measles was considered eradicated in the U.S. in 2000, but the nation has seen a recent uptick in cases caused by unvaccinated travelers who become infected abroad. Last year, at least 175 cases of measles were reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California has also been reporting an outbreak. As of last month, California health officials have counted 15 cases of measles in six counties.

They declared an alert when an infected college student used the San Francisco area public transit system, and he was later shown to have infected two male relatives.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Most people in the U.S. are either naturally immune to measles from having been infected or have been vaccinated against it.

The CDC said earlier this week they had tracked 54 cases of measles in the U.S. so far this year, including a dozen in people who had recently traveled to the Philippines.

Source: NBC news

New York facility is ‘last hope’ for girl declared brain dead, family say

The family of Jahi McMath, the 13-year-old girl declared brain dead after complications from routine tonsil surgery, said Saturday a hospital in New York may be able to accept her and keep her on life support.

The girl’s uncle and lawyer wouldn’t provide the hospital’s name, saying they don’t want media attention to hurt her chance of being accepted and transferred there.

“It’s an organization that believes in life,” attorney Chris Dolan told the Associated Press.
“It’s our last, last hope,” he said after two facilities in California that agreed to accept Jahi decided to back out.

A nursing home in the San Francisco Bay Area that had been willing to care for the girl if she had two tubes inserted changed its mind. Dolan said a facility in the Los Angeles area also withdrew its offer because it didn’t want media attention or to jeopardize its relationship with its doctors, who refused to treat someone who’s been declared brain dead.

Time is short for the family, as Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo on Tuesday ruled that the Children’s Hospital Oakland may remove Jahi from a ventilator at 5 p.m. Monday unless an appeal is filed.

Jahi underwent a tonsillectomy at the hospital on Dec. 9 to treat sleep apnea. After she awoke from the operation, her family said, she started bleeding heavily from her mouth and went into cardiac arrest. Doctors at Children’s Hospital concluded the girl was brain dead on Dec. 12 and wanted to remove her from life support. The family said they believe she is still alive.

Before Jahi can be transferred, she must undergo two more medical procedures — the insertion of a breathing tube and a feeding tube.

“Children’s Hospital Oakland does not believe that performing surgical procedures on the body of a deceased person is an appropriate medical practice,” David Durand, its chief of pediatrics, said in a statement Thursday.

Douglas Straus, a lawyer for the hospital, said in a letter made public Friday that before the hospital would comply with the family’s request to move Jahi, it would need to speak directly with officials at any nursing home to make sure they understand her condition, “including the fact that Jahi is brain dead” — and to discuss needed preparations, including transportation.

“Children’s Hospital will of course continue to do everything legally and ethically permissible to support the family of Jahi McMath. In that regard, Children’s will allow a lawful transfer of Jahi’s body in its current state to another location if the family can arrange such a transfer and Children’s can legally do so,” Straus wrote in the letter.

He also said the Alameda County coroner needed to sign off on the move “since we are dealing with the body of a person who has been declared legally dead.”

Dolan said he had already obtained signed consent from the coroner for Jahi’s transfer. The Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau said it had no comment.

He said Saturday he was waiting to hear from the New York hospital after its facility director and medical director speak.

Hospital spokeswoman Cynthia Chiarappa said the hospital has not heard from any facility to discuss how it can accommodate “a deceased body on a ventilator.”

source: Nbc news

NYC requires flu shots for all daycare, preschool children

If your child wants to attend daycare or preschool in New York City, he or she will now be required to get a flu vaccine.

New York City’s Board of Health voted unanimously Wednesday to require all children under 5 attending one of these facilities to receive the vaccine before Dec. 31, right before flu season peaks.

Young children often pass influenza to other children and family members, who then spread the infection to others in the community. This mandate will help protect the health of young children, while reducing the spread of influenza in New York City,” the board said in an emailed statement.

City health officials told CBS News Tuesday they anticipate this effort would affect 150,000 children and, based on traditional vaccine effectiveness rates, prevent more than 20,000 cases of flu in young kids.

“A lot of people have a misconception that the flu is just like the common cold and nothing that needs to be worried about,” said Dr. Jay Varma, deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “In fact, flu is common and can be very serious for children under the age of 5.”

In New York City, children of these ages are already required to receive common vaccines including the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), polio, pertussis (whooping cough), chickenpox and tetanus shots, so flu will just add one more shot to this list.

The rule will be enforced by the facilities, which may choose to exclude a child if he or she doesn’t get the vaccine. If the facility does not keep up to date vaccination records for its kids — as it’s required to do for all childhood vaccines — it could be subject to a fine.

Flu season typically begins as early as October, with the number of cases increasing dramatically by December and often peaking from January through March.

A flu season can range in severity, but children and the elderly are often most likely to be hospitalized or die from disease complications, even kids who were previously healthy.

Last year’s severe flu season killed at least 165 children. In the prior 10 seasons, between 43 and 153 kids died.

Since Dec. 31 is only weeks away, this mandate would not go into effect until next year’s 2014-2015 flu season.

Parent’s can only opt out of the flu vaccine if their child has medical reasons for not being able to take it, which are rare, or for religious exemptions. Philosophical exemptions, such as over vaccine concerns, are not allowed in New York State.

Children entering family daycare, which are held in people’s homes, won’t be subject to the requirement.

According to Varma, only New Jersey and Connecticut have similar requirements for flu vaccinations.

The new rule takes effect in 30 days, according to CBS New York.

“We feel strongly that we are doing something that’s always been done to protect the health of children,” he said.

Source: cbs news