In times when cancer has become one of the deadliest diseases in the world, artificial intelligence has found a way to counter this disease by detecting it early on and offering hope for more accurate life-saving treatments in future.
In a modern medical recovery, multiple forms of ovarian cancer were detected using AI by a team of scientists in London. They created a tool that sought out clusters of tumour cells with unusually shaped nuclei, the control centres which are present at the heart of each cell.
This AI testing method discovered that immune cells were unable to reach these clusters of misshapen cancer cells. That revelation suggested that the tumours have evolved in such a manner as to escape detection from the body’s immune response and could be a reason why there is such a poor prognosis for the cancer patients around the world.
According to the Institute of Cancer Research in London, a normal survival rate of cancers beyond five years is 53%, but this comes down to a mere 15% for patients with misshapen cells. The oddly shaped nuclei which appear to be an indication that the cell’s DNA has become unstable is something that conventional tests easily overlooks as it does not have enough capabilities to detect it.
— Berci Meskó, MD, PhD (@Berci) January 14, 2019
Unconventional New AI-Based Test Solves This Issue
- Using this new test gives way for detecting tumours with hidden weaknesses in their ability to repair DNA that wouldn’t be identified through genetic testing.
- By picking out women with these unusual cells, the new AI-based treatments which are better tailored towards cancer patients.
- It can be used alongside gene testing to identify women who could benefit from alternative treatment options that target DNA repair defects such as PARP inhibitors.
- AI test also identifies defects which cannot be picked up with DNA sequencing to identify faults in the DNA code in low levels of DNA repair genes which remains intact.
- Using this AI based test to analyse routinely taken biopsy samples will also make it possible to uncover visual clues that reveal how aggressive an ovarian tumour is.
- It thereby helps oncologists to spot aggressive forms of ovarian cancer at an early stage itself, which enables effective treatments on time.
- The new AI-powered test is able to identify only those without mutations, but with lower levels of BRCA who might benefit from this drug and other, similar treatment approaches.
How AI Based Test Works
- The AI tool looks for clusters of cells within tumours with misshapen nuclei, the control centres within each cell develop a new test that scans the shapes of tumour cells to pick out women with especially aggressive ovarian cancer to help doctors to select the best treatment for each patient.
- The AI tool then analysed tissue samples from about 514 women with ovarian cancer together looking at nearly 150 million cells and investigated the shape and spatial distribution of ovarian cancer cells and their surroundings.
Why Was This AI-Based Test Developed?
- The researchers found that tumours containing clusters of cells whose nuclei varied highly in shape had lower levels of activity of key DNA repair genes, including BRCA1.
- The researchers when opened new potential immunotherapy avenues for immune treatments to the body to boost in its fight against cancer cells, also noticed that the very cells that helped to defend the body against the disease were not able to enter the misshapen clusters as these clusters were better at evading the immune system.
- A substance called galectin-3 was present at high levels in these clusters through which they came to this conclusion that it may be the key to this newly discovered escape route from the immune system which is known to cause the death of T-lymphocyte cells, a vital component of the immune system keeping cancers in check.
- Understanding this immune escape mechanism required more work to figure out if this, at all is a major factor behind cancer which paved the way for the need of AI-based Test.
- Also, developing such a test will subsequently help develop new forms of immunotherapy to combat ovarian cancer or any type of other cancer was one of the secondary reasons behind it.
- Even though human researchers are very good at looking at cells, but then also the AI test is used because it’s hard to quantify differences and the process takes a lot of time too.
AI is increasingly used in cancer research to analyse data for patterns that can help us in various ways, like tracking tumour evolution to improving the overall diagnosis. As a technology, it has established a home in drug design for many developers. Now, researchers are seeing it as a potential tool in driving therapeutic choices for the treatment of ovarian cancer.
According to Professor Paul Workman, Head, Institute of Cancer Research, London, says that the test as of now is far of limited use only. He states that to tell a patient is likely to have a poor outcome is one thing but if the doctor is unable to suggest an alternative treatment, then the test will not be useful.
But anyway, with these AI-backed findings, the treatment paradigm for these patients will likely be impacted as doctors can now select treatment options that are tailored for cancer patients.
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Martin F.R. works as a Technology Journalist at Analytics India Magazine. He usually likes to write detail-oriented articles which are well-researched in articulated formats. Other than covering updates on analytics, artificial intelligence & data science, his interests also include covering politics, economics, finance, consumer electronics, global affairs and issues regarding public policy matters. When not writing any articles, he usually delves into reading biographies of successful entrepreneurs or experiments with his new culinary ideas.