How AI (and Big Data) will Positively Affect Cancer Care

Molly McGuane, Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center
February 13, 2019
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Molly McGuane shows how AI and Big Data is changing the way we diagnose cancer, as well as how we might revolutionize treatments.

The word computer literally derives from the word “compute,” or to calculate. Computers have held a variety of roles, but the exact time they were invented is largely debated as the concepts behind modern-day computers date back to the 1820s. Early uses of the machines vary, ranging from doing simple calculations to reading encrypted German messages during World War II. Before computer intelligence started taking off in the second half of the 20th century, people were employed as “computers” to analyze and process data by hand, as portrayed in the recent grammy nominated movie Hidden Figures. Computers have been integral to the world of data, and medical researchers could be on the brink of something even greater.

Machines are present in most aspects of our lives, but their roles in healthcare are arguably the most groundbreaking. In the 21st century alone, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has significantly improved our approach to research and healthcare developments. Advanced algorithms and technology is allowing doctors, researchers, and scientists to use technology in new and life changing ways. From the speed and accuracy in which data can be processed to its role in diagnosing cancer and recommending efficient treatments, these technologies are becoming more widespread than ever.

Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Make Strides in Cancer Research

According to a study spanning several years, scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are using technologies such as these to research acute myeloid leukemia. The study is a comprehensive overview of big data’s role in health research and examines how genomic sequencing can be read using technology. The importance of this study, which was completed by researchers at a dozen different institutions across the United States, includes how AI is reading data quicker and more efficiently, and how much money could be saved as a result.

Throughout history, medical professionals have been tasked with manually processing data. Although the job was made easier with the invention of the computer, the process often takes hours, especially as data sets continue to grow. In healthcare, information is presented in a variety of formats, ranging from numbers to images, and is often approached differently from one institution to the next. The introduction of computers - more specifically artificial intelligence and machine learning - has alleviated much of this monotony for doctors and proven to have a considerable amount of accuracy.

The ways AI and other technologies are being used in healthcare range widely. People interact with these technologies on a daily basis when scheduling appointments and checking hospital records, but the most impressive advances being made are with regard to diagnosing cancer.

As a result of the technology, diseases like cancer can be recognized and diagnosed at a faster rate than in the past. AI’s ability to do this is arguably its most important facet in healthcare. Second to its ability to recommend targeted treatment options based on similar sets of data. Early detection, especially for cancers with poor prognoses like mesothelioma and pancreatic cancer, is crucial. The rate at which diseases can be diagnosed through AI methods has the potential to continually improve and transform healthcare as we know it.

Cancers that have seen success with regard to diagnosis as a result of AI include, but are not limited to:

  • Breast Cancer
  • Skin Cancer
  • Brain Tumors
  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung Cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer

Technology is constantly growing and always evolving, as is its public perception. What was once considered a frightening prospect fifty years ago has become an ever-present part of our daily lives. Whether it’s the cell phone in our pocket or the wireless security system in our home to the diagnostic tools found in the emergency room, technology is changing how we live our lives.

Healthcare is a rapidly changing industry, and many of the advancements we celebrate today may not have been possible without AI and machine learning. Although it’s doubtful that a computer will replace your family practitioner in the coming years, it is very likely that they’ll be present during treatment in some form. Until then, we turn to Dave Waters whose quote rings truer now than ever.

“Computers are able to see, hear and learn. Welcome to the future.”

SMH Comprehensive Cancer Program

Monumental developments are in the process of being made at SMH for a state-of-the-art outpatient radiation facility that will be able to house more than 900,000 patients yearly. Plans for design and construction are set to begin early on in 2020. Through the use of big data and artificial intelligence, Doctors like Sarasota Memorial’s Chief Medical Officer James Fiorica, MD, are confident that better, more targeted, treatment options will be used for cancers like, breast, prostate, GYN, GI/colorectal and lung cancers. More information on the plans of this project can be found here.

Molly McGuane, Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center
Molly McGuane, Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center

Molly McGuane is the Communications Specialist and writer for the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center.

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