The rise of technology is continuing to have a huge impact in the field of healthcare and medicine, not least of all cancer. Researchers are constantly leveraging new ways to use technology, and technological tools, to allow them to perform better at both a diagnosis level and in treatment.
There are a lot of futuristic-sounding buzzwords currently flying around in the medical sector, words that we tend to associate with science fiction films more than reality, but the use of nanorobots, artificial intelligence, and gene editing are all becoming more and more possible. They are revolutionizing the way in which we are able to fight cancer, and we are going to tell you about some of these new approaches.
Another huge technological advancement has been the idea of gene-editing, something that is becoming more and more of a reality. This includes the technology that is engineers human cells to improve their immunity and thus make them more able to protect against cancer, and even fight back. Once again, progress has been made in tests on mice, where researchers have been able to successfully use gene editing to alter the DNA of certain cells and make them far more resistant to spread of a tumor.
If progress is successful, this would allow a doctor to use a patient’s immune system to battle off any diseases that may spring up, which would be a huge improvement. At the moment, the most effective means of blocking cancerous cells is to give a patient what is called a checkpoint inhibitor. They are effective, but they are not specific enough. Instead, they subject a patient’s entire body to undesirable side-effects. Gene-editing could prevent this by allowing doctors to target chosen areas only, and reduce any harm they are doing to healthy cells.
Very recently, Google collaborated with University College London Hospital to improve the ways in which radiotherapy is used to detect the different types of cancers, focussing their research and advancements on the upper body, especially the head and the neck.
Traditionally, doctors were limited to either CT or MRI scans when it came to creating any in-depth maps of a person’s body that would require radiotherapy as the main source of treatment. This is because they needed to understand and see exactly where the cancerous area was, and what tissue was health and thus needed to be avoided. This meant the process would take physician’s hours and hours to complete.
However, Google at UCHL, have developed a machine called DeepMind. It can be read in more depth at https://deepmind.com/research/ but, in short, it is an intelligence that has been designed and developed to assist clinicians in the process of identifying the cancerous areas of the body. It works by using a complex algorithm that is able to automatically identify which areas require treatment and which areas are healthy. The main benefit of this software is its time efficiency. It is thought to be about four times quicker, and still, offer accurate reads. As such, doctors will be able to spend far more time concentrating on the care of each patient, educating themselves on the process and researching cancer.
This has to be one of the most futuristic advancements in science – at least in terms of using the best sci-fi jargon – but researchers have developed a way to use nanorobotic agents to travel through a person’s bloodstream, using medication to attack any infected areas, whether it be cancerous cells or tumors.
Of course, it is early days, but there have been confirmed reports that this technology successfully worked on mice, where nanorobotic agents were able to fight off tumorous cells. As such, there are now movements being made to ensure that nanorobotics will be able to deliver chemotherapy. This would mean that doctors could target the infected areas with absolute precision while ensuring they don’t harm unaffected areas. Chemotherapy has some seriously harmful side effects and is extremely toxic to every area of the human body. So to be able to substantially eradicate this harm and boost the effectiveness of the therapy would be a huge success in the field of medicine.
Every single year, new medical research and is published in the form of articles, essays, blogs and scripture, which is great for progress but a nightmare for doctors who have to sort through it all in order to find what they need. As such, Microsoft – being the humanitarian business it is – recently announced what it is calling Project Hanover. Essentially, this harnesses the power of machine learning to process all of the scientific research out there, thus making it easier for doctors read, sort through, and ultimately decide what the best course of action is for each patient. This will allow better individual care and increased efficiency.
The way it will work is very complex, but what it will produce is simplicity. By being able to search through every published study, it will be able to identify the most specific research relevant for each specific need. Their long-term aim is to produce an easy to use and easy to navigate cloud computing tool that will be accessible to all doctors and to move into new areas of treatment, with a focus on cancer and acute leukemia.
But Microsoft isn’t the only business that are using technological advancements to produce groundbreaking results in the way we manage and sort big data. For instance, the experts at http://medinformatix.com/ who specialize in healthcare information technology, have made significant advancements in radiology information systems and have produced ways in which medical staff uses electronic health records to benefit their practices.
These types of solution allow everyone involved to have a better understanding of what is going on, from physicians to patients. What’s more, the focus to have new capabilities that will improve both the science and service of new technology could well prove to be the biggest step in successfully improving current efficiency and accuracy levels.
Yes, NASA has found a way to be of great service to the healthcare industry by developing a machine that uses complex algorithms that can identify similarities between galaxies. This may sound totally bonkers and may provide my questions than answers, but this machine can analyze human tissue samples to locate any signs of cancer.
What’s more, it is able to work in conjunction with a data network that allows searching. What this means is, doctors and researchers will be able to take an MRI scan – or something similar – and compare the findings to an archive full of similar images, allowing them to better detect early signs of cancer. This will take in all sorts of considerations based on the demographics of each individual patient, thus improving the methods used for diagnosis and the accuracy of any results at an earlier stage.
Of course, the more institutions, facilities, and centers than join this network, the bigger the source of information and data, all of which can be shared.
What was once the title of a Steven Spielberg film is now a total reality in so many sectors of life, not least medicine, and the latest advancements have been made with regards to mammograms. Researchers have developed a piece of software that uses artificial intelligence to interpret the results of a mammogram over thirty times faster than current methods and with an average accuracy reading of 99.1%.
What’s more, the software has the ability to translate its findings into diagnostic information that can be analyzed and read as patient charts, furthering the understanding of doctors in this field.
What makes this such a huge step toward the well-being of people is the current facts, which state over 12M people have mammograms each year in the United States alone, of which 50% give false readings. What is even more worrying is that almost 2M biopsies are performed each year, of which around 25% are classed as unnecessary. That is what makes this artificial intelligence such an incredible advancement because it will improve the accuracy of readings, allow doctors to use their time more efficiently and provide better risk reports without the need for more tests on a patient.
A quick look back through history will tell you how important it is that we keep pushing the boundaries of what technology can offer the healthcare industry, whether it be new techniques, improved efficiencies or just a better understanding. It is fundamental to our society as a whole, and it is part of the reason medicinal advancements have shaped history. From vaccines to the surgical anesthetic, improved sanitation to antibiotics, birth control to heart surgery, radiologic imaging to organ transplant. Advancements will continue to happen and continue to shape the progress of society, and the technological age will give birth to some of the most critical ways of ensuring the care of patients.
2017 will prove to be a big year in this field, and there is no doubt that the next decade will see what were once considered impossibilities come to the forefront of medical practice, and it will begin with the advancements we have covered here.