Following UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech regarding artificial intelligence’s (AI) potential of saving thousands of lives by improving cancer care, experts have weighed in on this ‘vital tool’.
In a speech yesterday, Theresa May said the government will revolutionise the health service by bringing artificial intelligence into the NHS, with the aim to improve cancer care and prevent more than 20,000 deaths from the disease every year by 2033.
In response to this, professor Ian McLoughlin from the School of Computing Data Science Research Group at the University of Kent, said: “AI has the potential to improve almost every aspect of the cancer discovery process: to make detection earlier, more decisive, treatments more effective, with fewer side-effect and lower rates of remission.
“Big data – the key underpinning technology for AI – means using thousands or millions of data points to enable artificial learning systems to explore and deduce relationships between cause and effect.”
He added: “By studying large amounts of data from the population as a whole, or from target groups, or even large amounts of data from a single person over time, these systems can build an understanding of individuals and groups.”
McLoughlin went on to say that in human terms, the AI systems learns how to:
- Understand more about people like you – your health-related behaviours and their risks;
- Know you better as an individual – what is normal for you, and how have you changed;
- Model and track the progression of diseases and conditions in the population;
- Treat diseases earlier with higher success rates, fewer side-effects and better outcomes; and
- To do all of the above at lower cost.
He continued: “An AI system can get to know you from your data, and most importantly will get to know how you are changing. Disease markers sometimes take months or years to become visible to the naked eye, but AI-based monitoring can identify fine-grained and correlated changes in an individuals’ daily life patterns.
“These patterns again reveal effectiveness of treatments, updated if necessary to the millisecond (rather than after every GP visit).”
The future of AI in cancer care
Mcloughlin concluded: “However, these tools are no substitute for the skill, experience and dedication of a good GP – at least not within the near future – but could become crucial in advising your local family doctor. After all, AI can know you better, observe you more closely, track you more frequently, direct your treatment more effectively, and monitor your outcome more objectively than any human.
“Yet, when we are faced with the long wait, when we receive that dreaded news, and when living after cancer, we need the human face of our family doctors more than ever.”
Press release: University of Kent