How can Artificial Intelligence help Cancer research?

When I was a young girl, I just wanted to understand what ‘cancer’ was and why it took my dad’s life. I kept on hearing the word ‘cancer’ as it took more and more people’s happiness and drained their hope. I would revise Mahatma Gandhi’s words “Be the change you want to see in the world” over and over again in my head. I started volunteering at Cancer Research shops, did extra learning and then decided to study Pharmacology at University. I was then exposed to the world of Data Science and started to learn how we can use data to make future predictions, specifically my interest in catalysing the longevity of human beings.

So how can we do this? Well this is where Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes into the picture. What is Artificial Intelligence? Artificial Intelligence is a branch of computational science and models, which replicates the same intelligence of a human or animal, example speech recognition and problem solving. So where does AI meet cancer?

When cancer is detected early, there is a higher chance of treatment being successful, however if the cancer is detected too late, it is much harder to treat. How about if the cancer detected is the wrong diagnostic? AI has helped pathologists to clearly detect the correct cancer, using computational models which can distinguish the DNA and classify the tumour. These AI computational models can uncover patterns in the human genetic system that are

concealed by the human eye. This in turn alone helps reduce patients undergoing unnecessary chemotherapy or specific medications which are used for other cancers, leading to a reduction in health complications.

This is just the start of what AI can do and its benefits to help with the diagnostic phase. We can use AI to conduct machine learning and neural network algorithms to stimulate drug discovery. This is the next step after the diagnostic phase, how do we cure the patient? This is where we need data! The word cancer has been lingering around for a while. It’s been widely used in your generation, your parents generation and their parents generation. We may have not though this data would be useful to us in the future, but we are in a better position with the advancement of technology to use it. Could we use past health records to determine which lifestyle and genetic factors could contribute to the formation of cancer cells. Could we use this data to help us detect cancer earlier? With the correct strategic model, yes we can. However, there is still a lot of exploration to do. The human body is amazing. It is made up of refined molecules, which we as human beings are learning about everyday. Collating data and creating models could be our entry point to learning more about the human body.

Machine Learning is a subset of AI which enables self-learning from data without the need for human intervention. It can use neural network to solve healthcare problems such as medical diagnosis. It has the capability to learn from the model about past or historical data. It is dependent on pattern recognition, finding correlations between the data and learning on the different variables. It can predict probability of disease and entail possible treatments. If we were to combine machine learning algorithms with artificial intelligence, we will be able to improve the management of diseases, learning about the different diseases whilst providing effective medical care.

If we go back to the definition of AI: ‘replicates the same intelligence of a human’. If we were to carry out more work on AI in the healthcare department, as well as other sectors, we will be able to make decision in a human-like manner using computational models. There are different powerful tools in machine learning and artificial intelligence which will help us transform the future of healthcare.

Not only can it gives us an insight of cancer, but other diseases we face in the human race. Although the human life span has increased over the past 50 years, we have also discovered more about the complications that we can face. Longevity is everybody’s desire. Using AI can help us achieve this. I truly believe this. So for everybody who was in the same position as me, lost a loved one and had so many unanswered questions about this questionable disease, I hope that we can get answers very soon.

Writer: Nisha Arya Ahmed

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