IBM Watson Health announces Australian-first collaboration with Icon Group to transform oncology care.

Jun 1, 2017
Brisbane - 01 Jun 2017: IBM Watson Health today announced it will partner with Icon Group, Australia’s fastest growing cancer care provider, to bring Watson for Oncology to Australia for the first-time.


The cognitive computing platform, Watson for Oncology, will be made available to oncologists within Icon Group’s Australian network, enabling them to access the massive volumes of cancer research and literature available across the globe.  


IBM Watson for Oncology complements the work of oncologists, supporting clinical decision-making by enabling them to access evidence-based, personalised treatment options across seven types of cancer including breast, lung, colorectal, gastric, cervical, prostate and ovarian cancer.  

“We are proud to partner with Icon Group as one of the leading innovators in healthcare delivery across the region,” said Dr. Terry Sweeney, IBM Watson Health Lead for Asia Pacific. “Icon Group joins more than 55 health organisations across the world where Watson technologies are making a significant contribution in helping physicians amplify their own expertise to deliver evidence-based care, particularly in clinics that lack specialist expertise across multiple cancer types.”

Currently, around 50,000 oncology research papers are published each year[1], while medical information is projected to double every 73 days by 2020[2]. Watson for Oncology presents a solution to the diminishing ability for humans to keep up with this explosion in medical knowledge.

Watson for Oncology, trained by Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) supports oncologists in identifying cancer treatment options and provides knowledge from more than 300 medical journals, more than 200 textbooks, and nearly 15 million pages of text providing insight and comprehensive details on different treatment options, including key information on drug treatment selections. The technology further ranks the evidence-based treatment options, linking to peer reviewed studies and clinical guidelines. Its machine-learning capabilities means the system continuously learns over time, based on previous interactions.

Commenting on the new partnership, Cathie Reid, Co-Founder and Digital Advisor for Icon Group said, “the Icon Group and IBM Watson Health partnership complements our growing portfolio of digital health services, and will help our physicians understand the subtleties of each patient’s illness by combining their expertise with the increasing amounts of oncology literature available globally. Investment in this technology will allow us to further support our oncology clinicians across Australia in their treatment decisions – based on the most current, credible information available – regardless of where they’re geographically based.”

Icon Group’s investment in Watson for Oncology will see the company join ranks with leading hospitals and health organisations across India, China, Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Slovakia, Poland, Mexico and the U.S. 

“We are excited by the potential impact that Watson for Oncology could have on physician’s care of oncology in Australia. This new collaboration with IBM Watson Health supports Icon Group’s strategy in delivering the best cancer treatment possible, to as many people as possible, as close to home as possible,” said Mark Middleton, Icon Group’s CEO. “Watson for Oncology will play a valuable role in helping regional and remote patients have access to high quality cancer care regardless of their geographic location.”

Announcement of the partnership follows the unveiling of the latest Watson for Oncology study data, released at the world’s largest oncology congress, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. The data demonstrated the clinical utility of Watson for Oncology with multiple studies, showing the AI platform achieves a high degree of concordance with the recommendations of oncologists and tumor boards including:

  • Watson for Clinical Trials Matching cut the time required to screen patients for clinical trial eligibility by 78% in a technology feasibility study with Highlands Oncology Group and Novartis. During a 16-week pilot, data from 2,620 lung and breast cancer patients were processed by the CTM system. Using natural language processing capabilities, CTM read the clinical trial protocols provided by Novartis and evaluated data from patient records and doctors notes against the protocols’ inclusion and exclusion criteria to automatically exclude ineligible patients - 94% of patients overall. This reduced clinical trial screening time from 1 hour and 50 minutes to 24 minutes.
  • Watson for Oncology achieved a concordance rate of 96% for lung, 81% for colon and 93% for rectal cancer cases compared to recommendations from the multi-disciplinary tumor board in a study at Manipal Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Bangalore, India.
  • Watson for Oncology achieved a concordance rate of 83% for multiple cancer types compared to recommendations from oncologists in a study at Bumrungrad International Hospital, a multispecialty hospital in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Watson for Oncology achieved a concordance rate of 73% for high risk colon cancer cases when compared to the tumor board from Gachon University Gil Medical Centre in Incheon, South Korea.
  • In a qualitative study, oncologists in Mexico found Watson for Oncology to be useful to help them identify potential treatment options for their patients, particularly in clinics that lack subspecialist expertise, and for training medical students and residents.

Following roll-out in in Australia, Icon Group has succeeding plans to launch Watson for Oncology across its South-East Asia network, where clinics in developing regions often lack the personnel and experience to deal with the burgeoning demand for oncology services.

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About IBM Watson Health

Watson is the first commercially available cognitive computing capability representing a new era in computing. The system, delivered through the cloud, analyzes high volumes of data, understands complex questions posed in natural language, and proposes evidence-based answers. Watson continuously learns, gaining in value and knowledge over time, from previous interactions. In April 2015, the company launched IBM Watson Health and the Watson Health Core cloud platform (now Watson Platform for Health). The new unit will help improve the ability of doctors, researchers and insurers to innovate by surfacing insights from the massive amount of personal health data being created and shared daily. The Watson Platform for Health can mask patient identities and allow for information to be shared and combined with a dynamic and constantly growing aggregated view of clinical, research and social health data. For more information on IBM Watson, visit: For more information on IBM Watson Health, visit:

About Icon Group: 

Icon Group is Australia’s fastest growing cancer care provider. Headquartered in Brisbane, the Group has expanded globally into Singapore, China and New Zealand. Icon Group is among the top ten healthcare companies in Australia and the only leading national healthcare company based in Brisbane.  

The Group encompasses Icon Cancer Care: Australia’s largest private day oncology provider with six sites nationally; Radiation Oncology Centres (ROC): Australia’s fastest growing radiation oncology provider with 11 sites nationally and a further seven in development; Icon Cancer Centre: delivering an integrated approach to care with day oncology, radiation oncology and pharmacy located in one comprehensive centre with three centres nationally and another five in various stages of development; Epic Pharmacy: provider of medication management and pharmacy services to the hospital, oncology and aged care sectors; and Slade Health: one of Australia’s largest chemotherapy compounders with three TGA-approved manufacturing sites across the eastern seaboard


[1] PubMed, accessed at

[2] Densen, Peter, Challenges and Opportunities Facing Medical Education 2011. Transactions in the American Clinical and Climatological Association. Accessed at


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