Artificial Intelligence Saves a Woman's Life

Japanese doctors reveal how AI software helped save the life of a cancer patient.

As we fear robots and other creations endowed with artificial intelligence taking over our lives, there is a distinct (and more likely) possibility that our tech will actually be helping us. A new computer program just saved a Japanese woman by correctly identifying her disease when other methods failed.


This AI-imbued software called Watson was put to work by researchers at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Science, who used the program to analyze a great volume of medical data in order to detect the patient’s leukemia. The tech, developed by IBM and other partners, found that the 60-year-old woman had a rare type of leukemia by comparing her genetic data with 20 million clinical oncology studies.

She was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and treated with anti-cancer medicine without success. Doctors did not know how to proceed.

Once they put Watson to work for 10 minutes, the doctors figured out the specific kind of leukemia the patient had and used drugs that actually had a positive effect and saved her life. Without Watson’s ability to accurately and intelligently go through a tremendous amount of data, this diagnosis would not have been possible. 

Professor Satoru Milano from the medical team at University of Tokyo highlighted that this use of Watson proves that AI will likely “change the world”. 

IBM's Watson was originally created to answer questions asked in natural language, mainly to beat contestants on the quiz show Jeopardy! It's named not after Dr. Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame, but after IBM's first CEO and industrialist Thomas J. Watson.

You can find out more about how Watson works in this video:

Cover Photo: A general view of IBM's 'Watson' computing system at a press conference to discuss the upcoming Man V. Machine 'Jeopardy!' competition at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center on January 13, 2011 in Yorktown Heights, New York. (Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)

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