Technology and Cancer: How Up and Coming Software is Making a Difference
Discovering a cancer diagnosis is never easy for anyone involved. Today more than ever before, physicians are well equipped to help beat cancer for those who are diagnosed. With so many advancements in the tech and medical space, oncologists are utilizing multitudes of software, ultimately helping to verify their tactics are working and to save lives for those with cancer. Whether it be a more conventional software being used to better everyday processes, or a more high-level cell testing, technology is making a difference for patients with cancer.
Artificial Intelligence and Cancer
For doctors, there are many challenges that come with detecting and treating cancer, however, software developers are noticing this and creating technology that could potentially aid physicians in diagnosing cancers. One of the few softwares Google created for the medical field is called LYNA, which stands for “Lymph Node Assistant.” The AI technology is run on deep learning, which means that LYNA is fed information and it learns from it by detecting patterns in a data set. Software engineers at Google specifically taught LYNA to detect metastatic breast cancer cells with a 99 percent accuracy. The machine learned how to pinpoint the exact location of the breast cancer as well as detect other suspicious regions that are too small to be detected by the human eye in most cases. They then put it to the test and explored clinical workflow benefits LYNA could provide and pathologists reported it was easier to diagnose micrometastases breast cancer with the software’s assistance.
This is big news for patients with breast cancer. Due to the high rate of misdiagnosis, or late diagnosing, technology like this could help save so many lives by helping to catch metastatic breast cancer at an earlier stage.
Big Data and Gene Mutations
No matter what type of cancer or illness one may acquire, there is a chance that there are other patients with the same types of diseases. That’s why there is data collected for doctors to learn more about treatment of that disease. Information centers like the National Cancer Database, were created solely for this purpose. The National Cancer Database is a program collaboration between the Commission of Cancer of the American College of Surgeons and the American Cancer Society and is a national oncology outcome database. It currently holds information on all types of cancer, patient characteristics, cancer staging, and tumor history from more than 15,000 commission accredited cancer programs in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Physicians are able to use around 34 million records it had on file from hospital registries. They then take this data and vet it against their current patient information in order to provide more accurate diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment options across the board. This can also be used to compare genetic mutations as well. Say a patient comes in with a certain type of tumor with a specific genetic mutation for breast cancer, doctors can locate their symptoms and cancer type in the database to compare the current case at hand with past diagnosis and treatments that worked. This ultimately can provide physicians and patients with answers moving forward in the future.
This can be helpful for any patient with any type of cancer, but this could be extremely helpful for those who suffer from rare cancers. For example, patients who develop mesothelioma from asbestos exposure could benefit from data from past patients. Since the cancer is so rare and has such a poor prognosis, many physicians look to the past in these databases to get a more educated plan of attack.
Sensors to help with Chemotherapy
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has helped make leaps and bounds in the medical field with their advancements in technology over time. One of their more recent experiments was creating a sensor that could help detect whether different treatments are working properly for cancer patients.
When cancer cells are exposed to chemotherapy drugs, it can cause their metabolism to be confused and produce high amounts of hydrogen peroxide, which can damage cells causing them to die off. This make the cells become dependant of antioxidant systems that remove hydrogen peroxide from cells. “Redox drugs” are drugs that work to disable the antioxidant systems, so that more hydrogen peroxide is produced, ultimately killing off cancer cells.
But there have been mixed results in testing success, so Hadley Sikes and her team set out to develop a testing system to show the effects of the treatment. They found that there is an existing hydrogen peroxide sensor inside of cells, which is a protein called peroxiredoxin, and when oxidized with the molecule, changes shape.
Upon finding this, they modified the protein by adding a red fluorescent dye and a green fluorescent dye to opposite ends of the peroxiredoxin in the cell. If there were high levels of hydrogen peroxide still in the cell, the shape of the protein would change, bringing the two colored ends closer together. They could then detect if there was hydrogen peroxide present and a shape change by shining green light onto the cells. If the cell remained green, there was no hydrogen peroxide, but if the cell glowed red, hydrogen peroxide was present.
This testing is groundbreaking for those with cancer who are going through treatment, especially those in experimental treatments so they can know if it is working properly. Not to mention, this helps physicians get more of a real time idea of the status of the prognosis and treatment effects in order for them to plan next steps more efficiently.
These are only a few examples of how advancements in technology are being used in the medical field. While some of these ideas such as artificial intelligence for cancer diagnosis are not yet used in everyday medicine, there is a chance it could help aid physicians in the future. There are endless possibilities for science and technology and now it is applicable to the medical field for cancer patients in the future. Some of those opportunities have yet to even be discovered and could maybe one day cure cancer for good.