Few diseases have affected our culture as profoundly as the devastating results of cancer. I think every adult I know has experienced some sort of loss, due to cancer. I was recently at a wedding (okay, it was my own wedding) and along with the profound love and abundance I felt and shared that evening with my new wife Emily, our newly combined posse of children, and the rest of our extended families, I felt especially joyful watching a dear friend dance the night away, wearing a saucy sparkling pantsuit, only two years following an intense, difficult, and life-threatening surgery she underwent, due to cancer.
There’s sadness, but also so much hope ahead, especially as we look at how scientists are working with IT experts to apply AI in the treatment of cancer. I recently came across a great example of this through a study published in JAMA and wanted to share. The project was a result of a partnership between the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Cancer Center and Topcoder, the world’s largest IT talent network. IT experts compete with each other on Topcoder to solve important problems. In this case, the problem to solve was to figure out how to apply AI to develop new algorithms to help automate the process oncologists go through to find the borders of tumors —essentially, to find that place in the body where the cancer cells stop, so they can remove cancer more accurately, without taking healthy cells.
Thirty four contestants competed over a 10-week time period, reviewing almost 78,000 images. There were 45 algorithms submitted and the top five were awarded prizes totaling $55,000. The results from AI were deemed as accurate— which means they were as effective as lung cancer treatment plans that would have been formulated by top oncologists.
I wanted to share this, because so many of us are worried that AI is going to threaten our jobs and maybe even take over, when instead, today’s most skilled thinkers are partnering to look at how AI can help us find better solutions to problems we don’t yet know how to solve. All this, so people like my friend can survive their treatment, and even thrive, pushing out the limits, showing up again on that dance floor to celebrate another day.