Skip to main content


Sanford/IMB partnership will advance cancer genomics

May 25, 2015 11:40AM ● By MED Magazine

Sanford Health is one of 14 cancer institutes across the country partnering with IBM Watson Health in an initiative to translate DNA insights into personalized treatment options for patients. The project is part of IBM’s broader Watson Health initiative to advance patient-centered care and improve health.

Across its enterprise, Sanford will utilize Watson Genomic Analytics, a cloud-based service for evidence gathering and analysis. It looks for variations in the full human genome and uses Watson’s cognitive capabilities to examine all available data sources such as treatment guidelines, research, clinical studies, journal articles and patient information.

“Customized cancer treatment based on a tumor’s genetic composition is the future of cancer

  therapy,” said Steven Powell, MD, Sanford Health oncologist and cancer researcher based in Sioux Falls. “However, due to the unique genetic make-up of each individual and the complexities of the cancer genome, a personalized approach can take an enormous amount of time to process. For any type of disease, rapid analysis and understanding of this complex genomic information will lead to more precise and effective treatments.”

It typically takes weeks for clinicians to analyze each genetic mutation. Watson completes the process in only a few minutes and produces a report and data visualization of the patient’s case, including recommendations and evidence-based insight on potential drugs that may be relevant to an individual patient’s unique DNA profile identified in the medical literature. The clinician can then evaluate the evidence to determine whether a targeted therapy may be more effective than standard care.

“This collaboration is about giving clinicians the ability to do for a broader population what is currently only available to a small number,” said Steve Harvey, vice president, IBM Watson Health.