What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about cancer? Did you say “death?” If you did, you are right. According to the World Health Organization report, 20% of men and 17% of women develop cancer in their lifetime, and 12.5% of men and 9% of women die from the disease. Cancer is the second leading cause of death after heart attacks, killing more than 500,000 people each year.
Thankfully, technology is here to change everything for good. We have already seen artificial intelligence beating diseases like flu, but can it beat cancer? Many experts believe it can. In this article, you will learn how artificial intelligence and supercomputers can work together to defeat cancer. Read on to find out more.
1. Drug Design
Before the advent of supercomputers, creating a new drug to cure a dreaded disease required considerable investment and a lot of time. So much time has passed that the real advantage of modern technology over a disease – never reaches the patients. With supercomputers, researchers can now identify new drugs and treatments faster and with less investment.
For example, Shaxing Zhang of MD Anderson Cancer Center has already used supercomputers to scan 1,500 drugs to determine which drugs can inhibit TNIK. TNIK is an enzyme responsible for cell signaling in patients with colon cancer. New technology allows quick discovery of the right drug to cure dangerous diseases.
Immunotherapy is a treatment that enhances the body’s natural defense mechanism so that it can fight cancer. The problem with immunotherapy is that it does not work on all cancer patients. It may work on some but doesn’t work on others. Supercomputers could help researchers identify tumor responses to immunotherapy and see how different patient bodies respond to this treatment. Understanding variables provides actionable clinical knowledge from large and diverse data sets.
Clinical information derived from the data set means that researchers can use this information to develop active diagnostic tests and critically analyze genetic data related to immune proteins. As a result, we may see more effective cancer treatments, and more patients will be able to defeat the cancer.
One of the most popular treatment methods for cancer is surgery, but sometimes surgery is not the safest. Many complications can occur during and after surgery. For example, if a doctor removes a very small number of tumors, there is always a risk of recurrence, which can harm the patient.
Researchers at the University of Texas have used supercomputers to perform laser treatments on canine tumors without any surgeons. With as many images and data as we have today, researchers and surgeons can rely on surgical simulations.
Now, scientists are trying to replicate the same thing with a portable system. The day is near when artificial doctors and surgeons will operate on patients. You never know when you might see robots perform surgery within a few years.
4. Radiation and Proton Therapy
Another standard method of cancer treatment is X-ray radiation, but it is slowly being replaced by a newer treatment method known as proton therapy. In proton therapy, a beam of protons is fired to destroy cancer cells. The advantage of this treatment is that it does not damage the surrounding tissue. The sheer accuracy of this treatment forces the instruments to be thoroughly calibrated, and the margin for error is nearly non-existent. Researchers are also using supercomputers to study new types of X-rays that combine real-time imaging and treatments to replicate proton therapy.
5. Cancer Diagnosis
We all know that cancer diagnosis is the first step. The sooner you diagnose this disease, the easier it will be to treat. With advances in medical science, new types of DNA tests and sensitive body scans are being developed, which will help in early diagnosis of disease. Then nanosensors are placed in your bloodstream, which will inform about the cancer cells.
The problem with all these new tests is that testing them on patients can be dangerous, so scientists are using supercomputers to create simulations that help them test the effectiveness of these new tests.
Scientists have developed a new diagnostic device they are calling a nanopore. This device passes through a thin hole in the membrane and is capable of sequencing DNA inside the body. Furthermore, it detects signs of cancer as DNA molecules pass through. The researchers are also working on developing nanocarriers that can be used to capture a DNA molecule.
A single human genome consists of 3 billion base pairs. Three billion is a huge number – it’s virtually impossible, manually, to identify where the mutation might be. This is where artificial intelligence and machine learning come in.