Artificial intelligence has helped the Mayo Clinic identify and recruit more patients for breast cancer trials.
Using Watson for Clinical Trial Matching, an IBM cognitive computing system, the Mayo Clinic oncology practice has seen more patients enrolling for trials.

The organisations also announced an agreement that aims to extend and expand training and use of the system. Training on trials for additional cancer types is already underway.

Currently, the system is trained to support clinical trial matching for breast, lung and gastrointestinal cancers.

Clinical trials offer patients access to promising new and emerging treatments. But matching and enrolling patients in appropriate trials is a time-consuming, manual process. Only 5% of patients with cancers participate in clinical trials nationwide.

Because of low enrolment, many clinical trials are slow to finish or not completed. This delays advances in research, access to better therapies and improvements in patient care.

“Novel solutions are necessary to address this unmet clinical need, advance cancer research and treatments, and, in turn, improve the health outcomes of patients,” says Dr Tufia Haddad, a Mayo Clinic oncologist and physician leader for the Watson for Clinical Trial Matching project.

Watson for Clinical Trials Matching aims to accurately and consistently match patients to clinical trials for which they may be eligible, so that health care providers and patients can consider appropriate trials as part of a care plan.

Over time, a team of Mayo experts determined optimal workflows and screening processes, and began educating patients about clinical trials. In July 2016, Mayo implemented the system with a team of screening clinical research co-ordinators in its ambulatory practice for patients with breast cancer.

In the 11 months after implementation, there was, on average, an 80% increase in enrolment to Mayo’s systemic therapy clinical trials for breast cancer.

The time to screen an individual patient for clinical trial matches also fell when compared with traditional manual methods.

“This has enabled all patients to be screened for all available clinical trial opportunities,” Dr Haddad says. “The speed and accuracy of Watson and the team of screening coordinators allow our physicians to efficiently develop treatment plans for patients that reflect the full range of options available to support their care.”

Mayo Clinic and IBM Watson Health plan to continue developing the system so it can include trials for other types of cancer and aspects of cancer care beyond medical therapies, such as surgery, radiation and supportive care.