AI projects improve cancer screening and outcomes


  • In 2020, 58.3% of cancer deaths worldwide were in Asia and by 2025, cases in India are expected to increase by 12% to 1.56 million.
  • In response, the Center for Fourth Industrial Revolution at World Economic Forum India launched a cancer care project, in partnership with Microsoft.
  • AI technology is used to identify and treat cancer while creating a knowledge database to help millions of people.

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide and a major obstacle to increasing life expectancy in almost all countries. The World Health Organization estimates that between 2000 and 2019, cancer was the first or second cause of death before the age of 70 in 112 of the 183 countries and ranks third or fourth in 23 other countries.

For both sexes combined, it is estimated that half of all cases and 58.3% of cancer deaths occur in Asia in 2020, where 59.5% of the world’s population resides. It is this part of the world that faces composite challenges in cancer care: failure to translate policy and planning into action; resource constraints in terms of infrastructure and human resources; gaps in the availability of services; lack of spending on health care, etc.

Emerging technologies are the fulcrum we need to bridge the healthcare gap in the cancer care continuum. Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged to be a game changer. AI-guided clinical care has the potential to play an important role in reducing health disparities, especially in low-resource settings. The integration of AI technology into cancer care can improve the accuracy and speed of diagnosis, facilitate clinical decision making, and lead to better health outcomes.

AI can play a key role in improving cancer screening, helping genomic characterization of tumors, accelerating drug discovery, and improving cancer surveillance. Cancer is a complex and multifaceted disease with thousands of genetic and epigenetic variations. AI-based algorithms hold great promise for paving the way for the very early identification of these aberrant genetic mutations and protein interactions. Modern biomedical research also aims to bring AI technology to clinics in a safe and ethical manner.

Bearing in mind the integrity of the disease burden, the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution of the World Economic Forum India, initiated a project Fourth industrial revolution for a sustainable transformation (FIRST) in cancer care. The Indian Council for Medical Research has forecast that by 2025 India is expected to experience a 12% increase in the number of cancer cases, adding 1.56 million more to the disease burden.

The World Economic Forum was the first to bring the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the current period of unprecedented change driven by rapid technological advances. Policies, standards and regulations have failed to keep pace with innovation, creating a growing need to fill this gap.

The Forum established the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017 to ensure that new and emerging technologies will help humanity in the future, and not. Based in San Francisco, the network launched centers in China, India and Japan in 2018 and is quickly establishing locally managed affiliate centers in many countries around the world.

The global network works closely with partners from government, business, academia and civil society to co-design and pilot agile frameworks to govern new and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, blockchain, data policy, digital commerce, drones, Internet of Things (IoT), precision medicine and environmental innovations.

Learn more about the groundbreaking work the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network is doing to prepare us for the future.

Want to help us shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Contact us to find out how to become a member or partner.

The FIRST Cancer Care Project focuses on harnessing emerging technologies such as AI, Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain, which can help provide accessible, affordable, and quality healthcare in India. The strategy is formulated by government partners, clinicians, IT solution providers, academia and civil society organizations. Microsoft has been a key partner of the Forum, and this article shows how the computer giant is using technology to tackle cancer.

Cutting-edge cancer projects

  • Microsoft uses machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to help the world’s leading oncologists find the most effective, individualized cancer treatment for their patients. One innovation, called the Inner Eye, combines machine learning with computer vision to give radiologists a more detailed understanding of the progression of their patients’ tumors. It is used by Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge to develop AI models that use the hospital’s own data to automatically highlight tumors and healthy organs on patient scans.
  • BC Cancer and Microsoft Canada are collaborating on “Single Cell Genomics” which will allow healthcare professionals to visualize the genomes of individual cancer cells. This level of detail will allow targeted and specific combinations of treatments for individuals and allow oncologists to predict how individual cells in a patient’s tumor will respond to chemotherapy.
  • Bio Model Analyzer (BMA), a cloud-based tool developed by Microsoft, allows biologists to model how cells interact and communicate with each other, and the connections they make. BMA has many uses, including determining how to detect cancer earlier and understanding how to best treat cancer by modeling which drugs will be most effective and when cancer might become resistant to them.
  • Microsoft and AstraZeneca are using BMA to better understand drug interactions and resistance in patients with a certain type of leukemia. Project Hanover is designed to automatically sort through all of this fragmented information to find the most relevant data, giving tumor experts more time to use their expertise to determine the best treatment plan for patients.

  • The Jackson Laboratory – an independent, non-profit biomedical research institution (also known as JAX, in conjunction with computer scientists working on Microsoft’s Hanover Project – has developed a tool to help the global medical and scientific communities stay on top of the ever-growing volume of data generated by advancements in genomic research. The tool, called the Clinical Knowledgebase, or CKB, is a searchable database in which subject matter experts store, sort and interpret complex genomic data to improve patient outcomes and share information about clinical trials and treatment options Microsoft AI technology enables machines to read complex medical and research documents and highlight important information they contain.

Microsoft is just one example that is changing the face of cancer care, as there are plenty of startups stepping up to take advantage of this technology. Over time, we’ll see that by using an AI-based systems approach, researchers can collaborate in real time and share knowledge digitally to potentially cure millions of people.

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