Cognitive Computing: Cancer Cure for India?

A utopia, in which all the published data (new and existing) related to medical field is assimilated, understood and provides insights, could be a reality very soon. Cognitive computing technology could be the next transformative force propelling the healthcare industry towards the next era.  In 2015, near 44, 000 oncology research papers were published globally which mounts down to almost 122 new papers per day. Not even the best of human mind can tackle this tsunami of data let alone utilization of this for providing more efficient treatment to the patients. A technology which can help the doctors to utilize this vast amount of data for the benefit of the patients could be a game changer.

Indian healthcare providers are leaving no stones unturned in adopting the latest technology. Manipal Hospitals, India’s third largest hospital chain, has adopted IBM Watson for Oncology to help physicians identify options for individualized, evidence-based cancer care across India. IBM Watson for Oncology is a comprehensive technology platform which runs on cloud and applies natural language processing and machine learning to help oncologists and their care teams to address cancer treatment and everything related to it.

According to the World Health Organization, cancer of all types claims approximately 680,000 lives each year in India, making it the second leading cause of death in the country after heart diseases (1). There are 1 million new cancer cases diagnosed every year in India, and this is expected to rise 5-fold by 2020 (2).  India has only one oncologist for 1,600 patients, compared to one for 100 patients in the US, and hence faces an acute shortage of oncologists. Assistance from an intelligent technology platform like Watson could cut down the time to treat cancer patients and also help physicians to stay up to date about best practices in treatment and care management.

Watson for Oncology, a cognitive computing platform, is trained by Memorial Sloan-Kettering cancer centre that analyses data to identify evidence-based treatment options helping oncologists to provide cancer patients with individualized healthcare.

This IBM Watson and Manipal Hospital collaboration could be a game changer for cancer patients across India where majority of the population are still starved of effective treatments. With Watson, Manipal oncologists can make an informed treatment decisions for patients based on insights derived from the individuals’ unique health status, the latest medical research and other relevant data.


(1) World Health Organisation, International Agency for Research on Cancer (2012) Retrieved from

(2) Sirohi B. Cancer care delivery in India at the grass root level: Improve outcomes. Indian J Med Paediatr  Oncol2014;35:187-91. Retrieved from


Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran

Management Thinker, Marketer, Healthcare Professional Communicator and Ideation exponent

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