Public Health

21.05.18

AI a ‘weapon’ against avoidable cancer deaths

Theresa May has called artificial intelligence (AI) a weapon in the fight against cancer.

Speaking in Macclesfield yesterday, the prime minister challenged the NHS, AI sector and health charities to use data and AI to transform the diagnosis of chronic diseases.

It is hoped that by using emerging technologies to cross reference people’s genetics, habits and medical records with national data, at least 50,000 people a year could be diagnosed at an early stage of prostate, ovarian, lung or bowel cancer.

The plans could see around 22,000 fewer people dying from cancer each year by 2033.

May said: “Late diagnosis of otherwise treatable illnesses is one of the biggest causes of avoidable deaths.

“And the development of smart technologies to analyse great quantities of data quickly and with a higher degree of accuracy than is possible by human beings opens up a whole new field of medical research and gives us a new weapon in our armoury in the fight against disease.”

She added: “Achieving this mission will not only save thousands of lives. It will incubate a whole new industry around AI-in-healthcare, creating high-skilled science jobs across the country, drawing on existing centres of excellence in places like Edinburgh, Oxford and Leeds – and helping to grow new ones.”

The announcement comes just days after Labour accused the government of letting down cancer patients, revealing that some patients had faced waits of over a year for treatment.

Last month, Jeremy Hunt announced that thousands of NHS staff could be trained in the use of AI and robotics.

Sir Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research, said that earlier detection and diagnosis could fundamentally transform outcomes for people with cancer, while saving the NHS money.

He called the plans to use AI to transform healthcare “pioneering.”

“Advances in detection technologies depend on the intelligent use of data and have the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives every year.

“We need to ensure we have the right infrastructure, embedded in our health system, to make this possible,” he concluded.

 

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