The UK is set to pioneer the use of artificial intelligence in cancer treatment with millions of pounds worth of funding for an innovative live-saving programme.
Prime Minister Theresa May will announce that the government is set to commit “millions of pounds” in funding for research toward an artificial intelligence programme that can cross-reference patient’s medical records and genetics to diagnose cancer in its early stages.
his announcement could further fuel innovation in the UK’s AI industry, as the country faces a post-Brexit future.
In a speech detailing how science can assist and transform healthcare in the National Health Services, the Prime Minister will unveil plans that could prevent up to 22,000 “avoidable deaths” by cancer each year by 2033. As part of the AI-assisted programme, some 50,000 people each year with prostate, ovarian, lung or bowel cancer could also be diagnosed at an earlier stage.
Speaking in Macclesfield, Cheshire, the Prime Minister will say: “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.”
“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.”
As part of the potentially live-saving programme, medical records and information on patients’ genetics and lifestyle habits will be analysed and cross-referenced with national medical data to try and spot people in the early stages of cancer, or at high risk based on a number of variables. Utilising a vast amount of data, in the near future patients could be saved from an early death through this innovative programme.
In addition to saving lives, the AI-assisted programme could help in cutting treatment costs in the long-term. Cancer treatments can be a long and costly process, so by preventing the rise of the disease in its early stages the NHS could save millions every year.
The announcement may draw criticism, as the National Health Service will be expected to submit details of patient data to companies involved in the programme. These firms will comb through large amounts of sensitive patient information and, given recent scandals involving sensitive public data, some people will naturally be wary of outside interests involved in patient data handling.
For the programme to work seamlessly and with the public at ease, the necessary infrastructure and protective measures must be in place.
In January 2018 the Prime Minister laid out plans for a data ethics council in an attempt to alleviate public concerns over the misuse and abuse of sensitive personal information; highlighting the need for stringent regulation and oversight of the use of AI in data analysis as Britain looks to cultivate a reputation as a world leader in Artificial Intelligence.