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Google’s DeepMind to apply AI in head and neck cancer treatments

Wed 31 Aug 2016


Google’s DeepMind team has partnered with British hospital doctors on an oral cancer program hoping to cut planning times for radiotherapy treatments.

After recently announcing a partnership with London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital to use its machine learning technologies to speed up the diagnoses of eye conditions, DeepMind has this week confirmed a new initiative at the University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust.

According to Google’s artificial intelligence unit, cancer treatments including radiotherapy involve complicated design and planning, especially when they involve the head and neck. Treatments need to obliterate cancerous cells while avoiding any healthy surrounding cells, nerves, and organs.

UCLH plans to work with DeepMind to explore whether machine learning can reduce planning time for these treatments, particularly for the image segmentation process which involves clinicians taking CT and MRI scans to build a detailed map of the areas to be treated.

DeepMind algorithms will be set to work on an anonymised collection of 700 radiology scans from former oral cancer patients, learning from the historical data in order to draw its own conclusions without human support.

‘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,’ the official press release stated.

DeepMind has been clear on the importance of anonymizing patient data following a New Scientist investigation earlier this year which revealed that the company was holding non-anonymised information on up to 1.6 million NHS patients without their consent.

The controversial deal with London’s Royal Free NHS Trust involved an app called Stream which was being used for monitoring kidney disease. After the news was published the trust stopped using the app, and the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office and the National Data Guardian continue to investigate the findings.


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