What would happen if your own body turned against you? That is the question cancer patients have to deal with. Cancer is basically just a mutation of the normal body cells into tumor cells that can eventually kill the patient. In fact, Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally with an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018 only. And the unfortunate thing is that there is no cure in advanced stages.
However, cancer can be cured if caught in the early stages and diagnosed correctly. Around 30–50% of cancers can currently be cured if patients are managed correctly and given the best possible treatment at the correct time. And this is where Artificial Intelligence comes in. It can greatly contribute to the diagnosis of the patient based on symptoms that are too minute for humans to detect. AI can also lead to a better treatment plan for individual patients based on the most effective plans for other patients who have similar types of cancers. This can be easily calculated by Deep Learning algorithms using a data set that contains the reports of all patients diagnosed with cancer in different parts of the world. Let’s see how many companies do this!
How can Artificial Intelligence help in Detecting and Curing Cancer?
There are many companies (both big and small!) that are using Artificial Intelligence to detect various types of cancers in patients and also developing global cancer research data banks. Let’s see some of them.
1. Collaborative Cancer Cloud
Wouldn’t it be easier if doctors could instantly analyze large amounts of patient data to understand the best course of treatment for a particular form of cancer? This is certainly possible with Artificial Intelligence! The Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University has created a Collaborative Cancer Cloud in partnership with Intel that will do just that. Doctors can access the Collaborative Cancer Cloud and predict the best possible treatment for their patients using the case studies of real patients who had a similar form of cancer.
This is possible using Machine Learning that allows the usage of big data analysis of a large amount of Cancer molecular and imaging data in order to find the best solution. So much so that Oregon Health & Science University is confident they can reduce the time between cancer diagnosis and the start of treatment to just 24 hours by 2020. This will give a much higher chance of survival to many patients.
2. Veye Chest
A very important part of detecting lung cancer is finding if there are small lesions on the lungs from CT scans. And there is some chance of human error in this so that’s where Artificial Intelligence comes in! An Amsterdam-based company called Aidence has developed an AI system that can help radiologists detect, quantify and report the lung lesions so that effective treatment can be performed as soon as possible.
This AI system called Veye Chest also performs 3D rendering of the lung lesions so that they are easily visible. Currently, Veye Chest is already used in countries like the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Sweden, etc. with similar AI systems being created in America as well.
The knowledge of various cases of cancer and their effective treatments is scattered all over the world? But what if there was one place where all this knowledge could be found so that doctors could understand various types of cancers and their effective treatments? This is what CancerLinQ wants to do! CancerLinQ is a non-profit organization of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) that aims to improve the knowledge of cancer and find more effective treatments.
So CancerLinQ uses big data analytics to gather anonymous patient data from all over America so that uniform best practices can be learned from everyone. This allows different cancer clinics to compare their treatments with everyone else and make improvements where necessary. CancerLinQ also supplies this data to researchers so that they can work on eradicating cancer permanently.
4. Lymph Node Assistant (LYNA)
It is very difficult for humans to find out if cancer has metastasized i.e. spread out from the primary site to other lymph nodes. And this is a big problem in breast cancer. The sooner it is found if cancer has metastasized, the sooner radiation therapy, chemotherapy or surgery can be recommended. And this is the part where Artificial Intelligence is extremely helpful!
Google has created a deep learning-based tool called Lymph Node Assistant (LYNA) that can distinguish a slide with cancer from a slide without cancer with 99% accuracy. The earlier rate of identifying a slide with cancer was 38%, so this is a huge improvement! The Lymph Node Assistant also helps pathologists to increase their accuracy and can even half the time that is taken to review each slide for cancer. In addition to that, LYNA can also identify the positions of the very small cancer nodes in the body which are impossible to identify by a human.
5. Cancer Moonshot Research Initiative
Data sharing on Cancer at an international level would accelerate the research for treatment completely! And this is what the Cancer Moonshot Research Initiative is trying to achieve. This initiative would provide funds for Cancer Research and the data created during the research is then shared with the public. One particular requirement is that the data should be FAIR or findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.
So then analysis can be performed on this large amount of collected data using Artificial Intelligence. This will result in new patterns emerging in the data that humans have not caught yet and which could even lead to a cure for cancer in the long term!!!
So, Can Artificial Intelligence Cure Cancer Now?
Artificial Intelligence has certainly contributed to many new breakthroughs in cancer treatment but it cannot cure terminal cancer as of now. Of course, it can lead to early detection and diagnosis which is also a question of life and death for the patients. As for curing terminal cancer in the future? Who knows! The situation is already changing in current times with many AI startups that are conducting research along with pharmaceutical companies. Also, big tech giants like Google, Microsoft, etc. are investing in cancer research with artificial intelligence and these may create a permanent cure someday.