Skip to Content
MIT Technology Review

The UK wants to build a cancer-diagnosing AI to save lives

In her latest effort to make the UK a global leader in AI, British prime minister Theresa May announced plans today to spend millions on developing algorithms that can spot cancer.

The details: May wants to open up the medical data gathered by country’s National Health Service to companies and nonprofit groups interested in working with the government to build AI that can recognize signs of cancer. Along with collecting information about patients’ lifestyles, the goal is to create tools that general practitioners can use to refer patients to specialists.

Goals: The plan is for AI to diagnose 50,000 people at early stages of prostate, ovarian, lung, or bowel cancer a year by 2033. The UK government estimates that early diagnosis of these cancers could prevent as many as 22,000 deaths a year.

But: The proposal raises questions about what the government will do to ensure privacy and ethical use of the data. May could help assuage critics by following through with her plan for a council on data ethics.