21st May 2018

Could Artificial Intelligence transform lung cancer diagnosis?

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Artificial Intelligence may seem more Star Wars than NHS, but it’s very much a reality – and could soon transform the diagnosis of cancer.

The Prime Minister is calling on technology companies and the health service to use AI as a ‘new weapon’ in research.

Experts say it can be used to prevent up to 22,000 cancer deaths per year, as well as helping combat heart disease, diabetes and dementia.

Mrs May says, “Late diagnosis of otherwise treatable illnesses is one of the biggest causes of avoidable deaths.

“The development of smart technologies to analyse great quantities of data quickly and with a higher degree of accuracy than is possible by human beings opens up a whole new field of medical research.”

So how could AI help? It could be used to sift through patients’ medical records, genetic data and lifestyle habits to give early indications of cancer. In fact it could give at least 50,000 people a year an earlier diagnosis for prostate, ovarian and bowel cancer – as well as lung cancer.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, welcomes the idea – but recognises there are still challenges to overcome.

“We know the vital importance of early diagnosis in lung cancer. The earlier the disease is detected, the better chance there is that the patient can get curative treatment.”

AI could help to process data quicker, meaning cases of lung cancer could be spotted sooner – and more lives could be saved.

Paula Chadwick, chief executive of Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

“But we need to be realistic. If AI is to be really effective in helping us beat lung cancer, we need the right infrastructure in place within the NHS to make the system work properly for patients. There has to be proper funding and real substance to support such innovations to ensure the technology brings tangible benefits”.