Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Intelligent Machines

DeepMind Will Use AI to Streamline Targeted Cancer Treatment

Machine learning could cut the time it takes to plan a patient’s radiotherapy treatment by hours.

Working out how to zap a tumor with radiation is a laborious process for physicians. Google’s machine-learning division, DeepMind, thinks AI can help ease the burden.

When medics apply radiotherapy to a cancer patient, they have to carefully determine which parts of the body should be exposed to radiation in order to kill the tumor while ensuring that as much healthy surrounding tissue as possible is preserved. The process, known as segmentation, requires the doctor to manually draw areas that can and can’t be treated onto a 3-D scan of the patient’s tumor site. The process is particularly complex for head and neck cancers, in which the tumor often sits immediately next to many important anatomical features.

Now, though, DeepMind will work with University College Hospital in London to develop an artificial-intelligence system that can automate the process. DeepMind will analyze 700 anonymized scans from former patients who suffered from head and neck cancers. They hope to create an algorithm that can learn how physicians make decisions about this part of the treatment process, ultimately segmenting the scans automatically.

“Clinicians will remain responsible for deciding radiotherapy treatment plans, but it is hoped that the segmentation process could be reduced from up to four hours to around an hour,” explains DeepMind.

In time, the DeepMind team hopes, the same algorithm might find application in treating cancers elsewhere in the body.

IBM’s Watson supercomputer has also been applying machine learning to personalized cancer treatment, though its approach is a little more bookish. It’s currently drawing on 600,000 medical evidence reports and 1.5 million patient records and clinical trials to help doctors develop better treatment plans for cancer patients.

This isn’t DeepMind’s first foray into medical research, either—in fact, this is the third project that it’s announced in collaboration with the U.K.’s National Health Service. After coming under fire earlier in the year when an app project appeared to provide DeepMind with free access to 1.6 million patients’ records, the research outfit recently announced that it was helping to spot the early signs of visual degeneration by sifting through a million eye scans.

Perhaps it’s working its way down the body.

(Read more: DeepMind, “DeepMind’s First Medical Research Gig Will Use AI to Diagnose Eye Disease”)

Discover how artificial intelligence is driving the future of work at EmTech Next!

Find more information and register
More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.