In the decades-long war against cancer, no silver bullet has yet been found.

IBM (NYSE: IBM) is adding its supercomputing creation and “Jeopardy” champion  ”Watson” to the arsenal of knowledge doctors and researchers can use in their as-yet unfulfilled quest.

Last week, IBM said it was partnering with the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York Center to deploy its “Watson” supercomputer in research efforts.

In a blog, David Kerr, director of Corporate Strategy for IBM, spelled out some of the reasons for the partnership.

(For more details, also check out the info graphic accompanying this post. You can view a larger version of the graphic here.)

“Our two organizations are combining IBM Watson’s natural language processing and machine learning capabilities with Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s clinical knowledge and repository of cancer case histories. We aim to develop a decision support tool that can help physicians everywhere arrive at individualized cancer diagnostic and treatment recommendations for their patients based on the most complete and up-to-date information,” he wrote.

“I credit leaders at Memorial Sloan-Kettering for envisioning a way to have a huge impact on cancer treatment worldwide. Patricia Skarulis, the organization’s chief information officer, first approached us last April, shortly after she watched the Watson computer defeat two past grand-champions on the Jeopardy! TV quiz show. She said MSK had collected more than a decade’s worth of digitized information about cancer–including treatments and outcomes for all of their patients–which could be mined for insights and made widely available.

“She thought Watson could help. We decided to work together to try to make that happen. And, today, we believe the goal is attainable.”

IBM had announced earlier an agreement with health insurance provider Wellpoint that will utilize Watson’s capabilities.

“Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s oncologists will assist in developing IBM Watson to use a patient’s medical information combined with a vast array of medical information–including an extensive library of medical literature, diagnosis and treatment guidelines, a database of MSK cancer cases and the institution’s knowledge management system. Watson will learn from its encounters with clinicians. It will also get smarter as it amasses more information and correlates treatments with outcomes,” Kerr said.

“Our two organizations will spend most of this year loading Watson with information. This data will be used to train a version of Watson created specifically for this task. Then, starting late this year and continuing in 2013, we’ll run a pilot program focused on the diagnosis and treatment of a handful of cancers, including lung, prostate and breast cancer.”

Longer term, Kerr said IBM and Sloan-Kettering hope to share knowledge gained around the world.

“The vast majority of patients are treated by physicians who don’t have access to the more advanced knowledge that MSK oncologists possess. If MSK and IBM succeed at developing an effective decision-support tool, physicians anywhere could potentially have access to the knowledge of some of the field’s top experts–and more cancer patients could get better care no matter where they live in the world.”

IBM employs some 10,000 people across North Carolina.

[IBM ARCHIVE: Check out years of IBM stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire by clicking here.]