Will cancer ever be cured? This question on Quora left me with so many doubts and fears. Like far too many, I’ve lost friends to this horrific disease.
There are a number of exciting technologies on the horizon that might help save lives. For example, I came across the news which says “Microsoft Wants to Use Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning to Discover a Cure for Cancer.”
Cancer is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most dreadful diagnoses a person can receive in a lifetime. The disease comprises of several forms depending on a multitude of factors such as the patient, the cancer’s stage, and available treatments. People of all ages can be among those diagnosed with one of over 100 different types of cancer. For us, the term cancer turns out to be pretty frightening. But when we talk about the cure or the treatment, it’s very important to remember that cancer is not just one disease. Therefore, the likelihood that a single treatment could ever cure all forms of cancer is extremely unlikely.
Good news is survival rates have dramatically increased over the last five decades from an average of 24 percent the early 1970s to about 50 percent. This means we are pretty close to a cure for cancer in 2017 than one or two decades ago.
What has Microsoft to Say about Cancer?
Earlier this year, Microsoft came up with an interesting initiative known as Healthcare NExT. With a rare combination of artificial intelligence, health research, and the expertise of its industry partners, the company aims to provide people with the means to live healthier lives and cure deadly diseases such as cancer.
“It’s a big challenge,” said Peter Lee, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft Research NExT. “But we believe technology – specifically the cloud, AI and collaboration and business optimization tools – will be central to healthcare transformation.”
Further, the company even announced Microsoft AI in Health Partner Alliance which is a group of partners focused on advancing health technology. Members of the alliance will receive unique training and access to technologies, engineering expertise and data sets. As per the latest reports, they are planning to expand Healthcare NExT to cancer research in an effort to further work done to find a cure or effective treatment for the disease.
Using Machine Learning
Conducted at one of its biological computation labs in Cambridge, UK, the research revealed their ongoing work to develop a computer system that would live within human cells and restart the system in case if the cancer cells were detected by simply cleaning out the afflicted cells. Other projects included using machine learning to improve tumor scanning, to better organize patient data, and to discover better treatments.
“If you look at the combination of things that Microsoft does really well, then it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to be in this industry,” said Andrew Phillips, head of the biological computation research group at Microsoft’s Cambridge lab, in a Microsoft Story Labs post. “We can use methods that we’ve developed for programming computers to program biology, and then unlock even more applications and even better treatments.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) can help scientists predict what combinations of already existing drugs may work in different types of cancer. The findings, they say, could save scientists valuable research time and potentially bring new treatments to patients much more quickly.
The present scenario
Cancer therapy startups making use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms are proliferating. There have been great advances in cancer genomics and that there is a great need to closely and excessively monitor DNA sequencing for genome mutations which can be received easily through this parade of technologies. Image analysis, tumor interpretation, drug discovery, immunotherapy response and even cancer vaccines — these are all areas where companies are developing or trying to develop advanced algorithms to help in the fight against cancer. And do you what’s the best part? The speed by which technologies will be coming to the market in the area of healthcare will definitely act as a ray of hope.
Discovering the cure for cancer turns out to be an ambitious goal to take on and with the involvement of companies like Microsoft cancer research will be improved to a great extent. “We are incredibly energized about the opportunities to make a difference in healthcare,” said Microsoft.