UK to commit millions to AI cancer diagnosis strategy

UK to commit millions to AI cancer diagnosis strategy

UPDATED British Prime Minister Theresa May is to announce plans to commit millions of pounds to a new artificial intelligence strategy for early-stage cancer diagnosis.

The aim is to reduce deaths from prostate, ovarian, lung, and bowel cancer by 10 percent within 15 years – saving an estimated 22,000 lives a year.

In the first of a new series of speeches on the UK’s industrial strategy, the prime minister will say, “Late diagnosis of otherwise treatable illnesses is one of the biggest causes of avoidable deaths.

“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.”

May is expected to ask the technology industry and cancer charities to work with the NHS to develop new algorithms that can use a mix of patient data, genetic markers, and lifestyle information to warn GPs of the risk of common cancers developing.

NHS Trust uses AI to predict heart attacks

News of the government’s strategy comes on the same day that the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust announced that it has embarked on a new AI programme to improve the treatment of patients who have had a heart attack, in a project that could see wider use of AI to inform treatment decisions across the organisation.

The Trust, which was named as the NHS’ Global Digital Exemplar of the year, will use technology from healthcare specialist, Deontics. The new system will enable doctors on the Trust’s acute cardiac unit (ACU) to access AI-driven evidence-based clinical treatment recommendations that are tailored to each patient’s needs.

Deontics uses cognitive computing and healthcare-specific logic to act like a “clinical sat-nav” for doctors, according to a joint announcement this morning. This enables them to make treatment decisions that are dynamically informed by relevant standards and guidelines, such as those issued by NICE, and the latest good practice from published papers and other reputable sources. These are then applied directly to the needs of individual patients.

“Some of our most frail and elderly patients with acute coronary syndrome are getting some of our most powerful drugs,” explained the Trust’s chief clinical information officer, Mike Fisher. “Using AI-technology means we should reduce the potential for overprescribing drugs for patients at lower levels of risk.

“Instead of giving some patients the maximum treatment, we can make sure patients are given the most appropriate treatment.”

Regulatory hurdles

These latest AI announcements arrive in the same week that GDPR comes into force across the EU – in Britain under the auspices of the Data Protection Act.

In April, a House of Lords report warned of the need to give individuals greater control over their own data, and urged regulators to prevent the monopolisation of data by companies such as Google and Facebook.

Also in April, the government announced a new Sector Deal for Artificial Intelligence, along with a comprehensive review of the health service, with the long-term strategy of training NHS workers in technologies such as AI and robotics.

Dr Eric Topol, executive VP of private US healthcare research group, Scripps Research Institute, is leading the NHS review, looking at opportunities to train existing staff, while also considering the impact that AI, robotics, genomics, and big data analysis may have on skills.

Topol said last month that these technologies “will have an enormous impact on improving the efficiency and precision in healthcare.

“Our review will focus on the extraordinary opportunities to leverage these technologies for the healthcare workforce and power a sustainable and vibrant NHS,” he said.

Internet of Business says

The NHS policy announcement this morning is a timely and sensible move by the government, given rising evidence that AI’s ability to spot patterns in big data can help to identify early signs of diseases, or warn of the risk of certain patients being susceptible to them.

Prevention and early treatment could save thousands of lives while cutting the enormous costs of treating people at later stages of serious diseases.

However, the news is also guaranteed to cause controversy at a time when the NHS is perceived as being starved of funds and undergoing stealth privatisation, and in the wake of rising concerns about technology companies profiting from national datasets.

For example, last year an independent panel found that a deal between Google’s DeepMind and the NHS’ Royal Free Hospital Trust to use 1.6 million patient records to identify patients at risk of kidney disease was illegal.

Chris Middleton
Chris Middleton is former editor of Internet of Business, and now a key contributor to the title. He specialises in robotics, AI, the IoT, blockchain, and technology strategy. He is also former editor of Computing, Computer Business Review, and Professional Outsourcing, among others, and is a contributing editor to Diginomica, Computing, and Hack & Craft News. Over the years, he has also written for Computer Weekly, The Guardian, The Times, PC World, I-CIO, V3, The Inquirer, and Blockchain News, among many others. He is an acknowledged robotics expert who has appeared on BBC TV and radio, ITN, and Talk Radio, and is probably the only tech journalist in the UK to own a number of humanoid robots, which he hires out to events, exhibitions, universities, and schools. Chris has also chaired conferences on robotics, AI, IoT investment, digital marketing, blockchain, and space technologies, and has spoken at numerous other events.