Humans have been trying to solve cancer for decades now, and now it's time for artificial intelligence to have a go. In Microsoft research labs around the world, computer scientists are using AI to try to come up with a solution to the deadly problem.
Rather than test tubes and beakers, Microsoft's researchers are armed with machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision. Through new research and treatment techniques, the Redmond giant believes it can change the entire industry.
Collaboration Between Computer Scientists and Biologists
One the focuses of Project Hanover is to give existing biologists the tools to analyze existing data efficiently. There's so much out there that it's impossible to sort through manually.
As such, the company has created a tool named Liternome. Researchers can leverage cloud-based computing to sort through papers and find ones that are relevant to an individual diagnosis. The Liternome team is currently using the tool with the Knight Cancer Institute to find an effective way to treat acute myeloid leukemia.
“I've always believed that the data is trying to tell us what the answer is, but we need to know how to listen to it,” said Brain Ducker, the director of KCI.“That's where the computation comes in.”
Programming the Human Body
The other technique works on the assumption that cancer is, in part, an information processing system.
The best way to understand something is with the same tools it uses itself. As such, Microsoft's Bio Model Analyzer looks at how cells communicate with each other and the connections they make.
“We're in a revolution with respect to cancer treatment,” said David Heckerman, senior director of the genomics group at Microsoft. “Even 10 years ago people thought that you treat the tissue…Now, we know it's just as, if not more, important to treat the genomics of the cancer.”
In the next ten years, Microsoft plans to take this even further. The company wants to develop a molecular system that can detect disease. The same system could have impacts far beyond cancer, helping to identify a variety of problems.
Long term, the company's goal is much bigger. To treat cancer like a computer virus, and re-program cells to be healthy again.
You can read Microsoft's full blog post on the matter here.