There are 200 different types of cancer and 18 million new cases are detected worldwide each year. This is the harsh reality, but the other side of the coin is more positive; half of all people who suffer from this illness recover. And technology is part of the solution.
At everis, we provide healthcare professionals with the mechanisms needed to monitor the population and predict the risk factors that each human being has of developing this illness. The aim is to enable early detection and refine the treatment provided so it can be as personalized as possible since both are directly proportional to successful recovery; in other words, they are a priority for saving lives.
In recent years, exponential progress has been made in the study of genetics and epigenetics, that is, the impact of environmental factors on gene expression. This progress will enable the application of specialized treatments for each person and, together with precision medicine, determine not only said treatment, but also make it possible to identify groups at risk, for whom the illness may be detected early.
Technology directly aids early detection. Visual examination of medical images and the manual techniques used to detect different types of cancer take a great deal of time and have a high margin of error. Technological advances in minimally invasive medical imaging and biomarkers are promising to address challenges in cancer detection, treatment and follow-up.
Artificial Intelligence also plays an essential role in the examination of medical images; AI techniques help to identify abnormalities as respects established patterns, thus constituting a precise diagnostic support tool.
As an example of the use of AI in medical image analysis, last summer the NTT DATA group, in partnership with the University of Miyazaki, conducted a research project in which it used Artificial Intelligence technology to detect abnormalities in kidneys, achieving 88.85% accuracy in the detection of cancer.
New techniques and less invasive treatments
There are new, non-invasive techniques such as liquid biopsy, an analytical test performed on a sample of biological tissue, mainly in blood, and applied to the diagnosis of cancer at an early stage. The method consists of taking several fluid samples over time, which helps doctors understand the progression of the cancer and assess the effectiveness of the treatment being applied in each case.
As a reference, the leading oncologist Josep Baselga, of the Scientific Committee of the Vall D'Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), believes that liquid biopsies will be one of the most promising tools in the fight against cancer and affirms that their application would increase recovery by 25%. Tumors naturally release some of their DNA into the blood, and researchers are able to detect these earlier from a small sample.
Other research is using nanorobotics to fight cancer on a smaller scale. Since mid-2014, work has been carried out at Harvard University to improve a new technique which involves injecting the patient with a massive army of millimeter-sized robots that travel throughout the body in search of tumor cells and, once located, attack them using medication, thus avoiding the current lengthy radiotherapy and chemotherapy processes.
More and more information is available on prevention, diagnosis and follow-up of the treatment of cancer patients. Cutting-edge technology companies are key partners for facilitating research and knowledge generation by supporting processes to store, manage, process and use this massive amount of data. The major capacities of current information processing and innovative analysis techniques such as deep learning, computer vision and neural networks are essential allies.
It is important to continue strengthening information systems to enable a comprehensive approach to patients with cancer, sharing information among the different levels of care and professionals; that is, oncologists, physical therapists, nutritionists, nurses, psychologists, caregivers, primary care physicians, pharmacies, etc., need to be connected. For many people, it is key to be able to be close to their leading professionals in such a difficult situation, and count on them to answer their questions and concerns from their day to day.
It is vital to keep on committing to, and investing in, technology, making it available to medical research, since thanks to technology and healthy lifestyles, life expectancy and being able to win the battle against this illness will cease to be a dream, and become a reality instead.