The development of artificial intelligence (AI) has been much debated in recent years, with some seeing it as having great potential to benefit us and others featuring fears that it could either destroy millions of jobs or even turn against humanity with deadly effects.
It is not just in this country that a famous Austrian may loom large in the mind when the last of these ideas is discussed, but the reality of AI may be less about Skynet and Judgement Day and more about ‘terminating’ tumours and other forms of cancer.
AI offers some very exciting possibilities for spotting and treating cancer, as a new technology being developed now has shown a lot of potential in trials to help spot what even the leading oncologists and radiotherapists cannot do on their own.
Prostate cancer treatment could be the next field in which patients gain from the use of AI. This will include helping the specialists to assess whether those who have undergone treatment in a radiotherapy centre will need to undergo long-term hormone therapy, a treatment that can bring many unpleasant side effects.
The innovation has been developed by Duke University in the United States and would use AI to establish which patients will need hormone therapy and which ones have already had the necessary treatment to ensure their survival and recovery.
Researchers at the university’s Cancer Institute presented findings this month at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting of the work they undertook to develop the AI-based biomarker and how it worked.
They used data from six studies covering 2,600 men who had undergone treatment using radiotherapy and long-term hormone treatment to develop it and then carried out a randomised trial on nearly 1,200 more men to validate the results.
Developed in conjunction with ArteraAI, the biomarker read the biopsies and clinical data to decide which of the men needed the extra hormonal therapy and who could manage without.
Overall, it revealed 34 per cent of men would benefit from short-term androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) without needing to take it over the long term, plus 43 per cent who would benefit from long-term ADT.
Lead author of the study Professor Andrew Armstrong said: “Along with radiotherapy, ADT improves survival and reduces risk of metastasis in men with high-risk localized prostate cancer, but not all men need to be on therapy over the long term.”
Of course, the use of AI is not necessary to understand everything about prostate cancer as much is well known, such as the fact that there is a racial disparity in vulnerability to the disease.
Hollywood actor Colin McFarlane, who has just been diagnosed with the disease, revealed he has been tested regularly after discovering that black men are twice as likely as their white counterparts to suffer prostate cancer.
Nonetheless, while vulnerability can be easily established, much more is there to be discovered about the effectiveness of treatments for the disease, including radiotherapy. It may be that far from threatening humanity, AI will help oncologists and radiotherapists to put an end to prostate cancer tumours.