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How AI could boost the effectiveness of cancer screening

21/05/2019

A US study suggests that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is better than specialist doctors at identifying lung cancer. It’s a finding that could revolutionize cancer screening in the future, potentially allowing tumors to be found at an earlier stage and improving treatment outcomes. According to the study - which was conducted by researchers from Northwestern University in Illinois and the Google Health Research Group – Artificial Intelligence was able to outperform six specialist cancer doctors when it came to identifying cancer from a single CT scan. When multiple CT scans were used, the AI and the doctors were equally effective. Prior to the tests, the AI was trained with 42,290 CT lung scans from nearly 15,000 patients. It was not told what to look for in a CT scan, merely which patients went on to develop cancer and which didn’t. The results of the study, published in Nature Medicine, show that AI can not only boost cancer detection by 5%, but can also reduce false-positives by 11%. Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr Mozziyar Etemadi, from Northwestern University, said: “Not only can we better diagnose someone with cancer, we can also say if someone doesn't have cancer, potentially saving them from an invasive, costly, and risky lung biopsy.”

‘Spectacular’ results seen in prostate cancer immunotherapy trial

07/06/2018

In the UK, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. It’s also overtaken breast cancer in recent years to become the third most common type of cancer. That’s why any news when it comes to potential prostate cancer breakthroughs is always exciting. Immunotherapy has been revolutionising the treatment of cancer and now a team from the Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital in London have conducted a trial, the results of which they say are "spectacular" and a "big deal". The trial focussed on drugs that boost a patient’s immune system, saving the lives of some men with terminal prostate cancer. Immunotherapy works by helping a person’s immune system recognise and subsequently attack cancer cells. One of the study participants, Michael English, 72, was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy and hormone-based therapies did not kill his cancer, however. Then, two years ago, he started taking the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab. Today, he is effectively cancer free, with scans no longer showing any signs of the tumour.   However, it’s an approach that will not, unfortunately, help all men. In fact, only between 10% and 15% of patients had any response to the therapy at all. This is not something that’s unusual for immunotherapy. Nell Barrie, from Cancer Research UK, said: "The next step will be to find out how to tell which men will benefit from taking this drug. "This is important as although immunotherapy is exciting, it can have severe side effects".

Scientists hail 'milestone' breast cancer breakthrough

03/05/2016

A team of international scientists has managed to produce a near-perfect picture of the genetic events that precede and cause breast cancer in women. The study, which was published in the journal Nature, has been described by the study leader as a "milestone", which could potentially lead the way for new treatments and therapies to be developed to combat the disease. Cancer Research UK said that the findings of the study were an important stepping stone for developing new drugs for the treatment of breast cancer. In what has so far been the largest study of its kind - in which researchers analysed all 3 billion letters of people's genetic code, in 560 breast cancers - all of the errors which result in otherwise healthy breast tissue turning rogue were successfully unpicked. Prof Sir Mike Stratton, director of the Sanger Institute in Cambridge (which led the study), said it was a "milestone" in cancer research. He added the study's findings would allow universities, biotech and pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs that target the mutated genes and their proteins that cause breast cancer. "There are now many drugs that have been developed over the last 15 years against such targets which we know work," he said. One of the downsides of the study is that while the scientists have identified the mutations that cause breast cancer, the origins of many are still very much unknown. Nevertheless, many experts believe the study is a step closer to the development of personalised health care for breast cancer.

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