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Artificial Intelligence in Oncology: Revolutionizing Cancer Treatment

By: Carla Chinski

Twitter: @TheLatestByte

Post Date: 2024-02-07

Human Judgement, Humane Machines: Cancer Treatment with AI

In recent years, the field of oncology has witnessed a revolutionary transformation with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI). AI has emerged as a powerful tool in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancer. And, in the high-stakes world of pharmaceuticals, the road from a drug's conception to its arrival in the clinic is famously long, winding, and extravagantly expensive. Enter the solution (a game-changer, perhaps?): Artificial Intelligence (AI). However, as we'll see, it hardly replaces human judgment or expertise.

Artificial intelligence refers to the ability of machines to simulate intelligent behavior and critical thinking. It encompasses various algorithms and techniques that enable machines to learn from data, recognize patterns, and make informed decisions. In the context of oncology, AI can integrate large amounts of data from multi-omics analyses, advanced computing, and deep learning strategies. The most important component is advanced computing techniques, as they enable researchers to sift through these large volumes of data efficiently, identifying patterns and insights that would be impossible to discern with traditional analytical methods.

For instance, there are issues with treatment; look no further than the United States:  “The USA's annual per capita radiation dose has doubled over the past 15 years, primarily due to increased CT imaging. Since image quality and signal-to-noise ratio are inversely correlated with radiation dose, it is not possible to arbitrarily reduce the radiation dose per examination.” Some researchers have also proposed image screening and contrast analysis.

In the context of oncology, secondly, deep learning strategies can be applied to interpret complex biological data. For example, they can analyze images from medical scans to detect tumors, predict cancer progression, and personalize treatment plans based on the predicted outcomes of various therapeutic options. Deep learning algorithms can learn from vast amounts of data, improving their accuracy and reliability over time as they are exposed to more information.

Taking all this into account, one of the areas where AI has made significant strides is cancer diagnostics. AI-based devices have obtained official approval from regulatory bodies like the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for their use in clinical practice.

These devices leverage machine learning algorithms to analyze medical imaging data, such as radiology and pathology images, to detect and classify cancerous lesions with high accuracy; breast, lung, and prostate cancers have particularly benefited from AI-based diagnostics. According to an article by Bhalla and Lagana, "[p]recision oncology is an innovative approach to cancer care in which diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment are informed by the individual patient's genetic and molecular profile. The rapid development of novel high-throughput omics technologies in recent years has led to the generation of massive amount of complex patient data."

Concrete Applications in AI for Oncological Treatment

Precision oncology, in other words, aims to tailor cancer treatment to each patient's unique genetic and molecular profile. AI plays a crucial role in precision oncology by analyzing vast amounts of genomic and clinical data to identify biomarkers, predict treatment response, and develop targeted therapies. By harnessing AI's capabilities, researchers can identify optimal treatment strategies for individual patients, maximizing treatment efficacy and minimizing side effects.

The management of this "complex patient data" has two main caveats: patient consent and ethical considerations, where non-anticipated data mining could take place (ethical standards seem to be at the forefront with AI and machine learning these days.) An article by Forbes states precisely this: "For Howard, the solution to creating the kind of data infrastructure that successful AI solutions require, boils down to 'how do we get the U.S. healthcare system reoriented around building high-quality, interoperable machine-readable data sets that can be used to develop and validate AI algorithms?'". So, in the end, it's as much about data strategy for mining as it is about data usage and consent.

The specific data is mined so these systems can analyze patient data, including medical history, genomic information, and treatment outcomes, to provide personalized treatment recommendations. By integrating AI into clinical practice, healthcare providers can access real-time insights and improve treatment outcomes for cancer patients. Additionally, AI algorithms can analyze multiple variables, such as patient demographics, tumor characteristics, and treatment history, to predict patient prognosis and survival rates.

AI-based prognostic models contribute to improved patient care and decision-making. However, the solutions themselves are not always translated into tangible products, instead remaining strictly as models, without necessarily moving on to vertical AI integration in an application interface.


Future Perspectives of AI in Oncology


The future of AI in oncology lies in the development of multidisciplinary platforms that integrate data from various sources, such as electronic health records, genomics, and imaging. These platforms will enable seamless collaboration among healthcare professionals, researchers, and AI algorithms, facilitating comprehensive cancer care and accelerating scientific discoveries. Just this year, 2024, the FDA approved DermaSensor's AI-powered skin cancer detector. When done right (i.e., actually integrated into a usable device,) we get the integration of a robust dataset, image detection through the dataset, and a trustworthy analysis: Reuters tells us "the device had a 96% sensitivity in detecting skin cancers. A negative result through the device had a 97% chance of being benign, according to the company."


A lesser-proved application: AI has the potential to address the challenges posed by rare tumors, which often lack sufficient data for traditional analysis. By leveraging AI algorithms, researchers could uncover patterns and insights in rare tumor cases, leading to improved diagnosis, treatment, and management strategies.

As AI becomes increasingly integrated into oncology practice, ethical considerations and data privacy become paramount. Ensuring patient confidentiality, informed consent, and unbiased algorithmic decision-making are critical for maintaining trust in AI-driven healthcare. Striking the right balance between innovation and ethical safeguards will be essential for the responsible and equitable implementation of AI in oncology.


Artificial intelligence holds immense promise in revolutionizing cancer treatment. Its applications in diagnostics, precision oncology, clinical decision support, prognosis prediction, and drug discovery are reshaping the landscape of oncology practice. 


As AI technology continues to advance, multidisciplinary collaborations, addressing unmet needs, ensuring ethical considerations, and data privacy will be crucial for harnessing the full potential of AI in oncology. With ongoing research and innovation, AI has the potential to pave the way for more effective and personalized cancer treatments, ultimately bringing us closer to finding a cure for cancer.


Additional Information: It is important to note that while AI shows great potential in improving cancer treatment, it should not replace the expertise and judgment of healthcare professionals. The human touch and clinical experience remain essential in delivering comprehensive and patient-centered care.



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