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IBM to collaborate with Rome’s Bambino Gesu Hospital to help fight childhood cancer


© Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù

John Burger - published on 03/03/20

Artificial intelligence will be brought into play in identifying diseases and getting kids treated faster.

An agreement was signed Thursday between the Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital in Rome and IBM to provide technological assistance to “accelerate pediatric research and care,” the Holy See Press Office reported.

John E. Kelly III, vice president of IBM, was in Rome for a conference on artificial intelligence organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life February 26-28. During the trip, he met with the president of Bambino Gesù, Mariella Enoc.

The partnership will focus on Pediatric Brain Cancer (PBC), with the aim of developing algorithms to accelerate the diagnosis and treatment of medulloblastoma patients. Medulloblastoma is the most common issue faced by PBC doctors, accounting for 15%-20% of all pediatric brain tumors.

“State-of-the-art pediatric care is producing an ever-increasing amount and complexity of data including advanced imaging, real-time monitoring and real-world evidence,” the two entities said in a joint news release. “Technologies such as AI and Cloud can support the collection and analysis of such data. These advanced technologies can provide insights to clinicians to help them design research protocols to improve diagnosis, prognosis, and better therapies.”

The American multinational will provide the pediatric care establishment with the necessary means to improve research, “database construction” and the use of artificial intelligence in order to develop “efficient” algorithms. These techniques will be used to detect diseases more quickly and to “improve diagnostic performance.”

This improvement in services will be beneficial in speeding up the “developmental processes of potentially revolutionary treatments for rare childhood diseases,” Kelly said. The cooperation of the two entities will focus on “pediatric brain tumors.”

He said that IBM will be “putting artificial intelligence (AI) technology to work in ways that could benefit children most in need of help.”

Bambino Gesu and IBM will also cooperate in the area of Rare Diseases, which affect 6%-8% of the total European Union population. More than two thirds of these disorders affect children. IBM will support Bambino Gesu in setting up a database including genomic, clinical, laboratory and imaging information and develop algorithms to improve the diagnostic yield and accelerate diagnosis of patients affected by rare diseases.

The Bambino Gesù is the largest children’s hospital and research center in Europe. Founded by a family in Rome in 1869, it was given to the Holy See in 1924 and has since been nicknamed “the pope’s hospital.” It cares for children and adolescents from all over the world and operates not only in Italy, but also in many developing countries, including Central African Republic, Tanzania and Ethiopia. The hospital’s mission is to act as a highly specialized third level clinic and research center, providing pro bono care assistance to children wherever they come from.

Spokesmen for both IBM and Bambino Gesu declined to discuss details of the arrangement, including its monetary value.

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