Google says its AI can give accurate lung cancer diagnoses: What this means for healthcare in India

Lung cancer prevention may soon not be a distant or far-fetched dream. On Monday, May 20, Google announced that it had developed AI (artificial intelligence) to predict the presence of lung cancer in patients. A scientific development three years in the making, Google’s AI uses 3D modelling to help detect lung cancer.

“Using advances in 3D volumetric modeling alongside datasets from our partners (including Northwestern University), we’ve made progress in modeling lung cancer prediction as well as laying the groundwork for future clinical testing,” said Google.

Google was inspired to build this AI tool because lung cancer has one of the lowest survival rates and, currently, weak and inaccurate diagnostic facilities.

It’s modeling tool uses a patient’s current and previous CT scans to form its malignancy prediction. The company tested 45,856 chest screens and corroborated its findings with six US board-certified radiologists.

Google said it reduced false positives by over 11% and accurately detected cancer 5% better than current radiologists.

The company added that the AI modeling tool has provided encouraging results already but needs to be more thoroughly developed and improved. Google has also invited research institutions and hospitals to collaborate on the project.

Why India should care

Lung cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the world and accounts for 13% of all new cancer diagnoses and 19% of cancer-related deaths. However, India is especially at risk for respiratory conditions.

Since the 1990s, non-communicable diseases (including respiratory issues) have increased from 30% to 50% in India. One of the main reasons for this spike is the growing levels of air pollution in the country.

A recent study found that air pollution levels in India have become so high that residents’ life expectancy has decreased by 1.7 years. People in Delhi, UP, and Bihar are the most susceptible to lung disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and lung cancer, all of which are linked to the poor air quality.

The National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that, in 2015, lung cancer was responsible for 9.3% of cancer-related deaths and 6.9% of new cancer cases in India. Even in the country, lung cancer is the most common type of cancer, especially in Mizoram, Delhi, Chennai, and Bengaluru.

As of 2018, the rates of lung, breast, cervical, and oral cancers have more than doubled since the 1990s. West Bengal, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh are the leading states for lung cancer cases due to toxic air quality, smoking, and tobacco and paan masala consumption.

A report released in April also found that, in 2017, air pollution was a greater public health risk than smoking and tobacco. Air pollution caused 33% of lung cancer deaths in India.

While lung cancer is on the rise, it is also treatable—and sometimes curable, if detected early. Hence, Google’s AI might be extremely beneficial in India, where accurate and early detection of lung cancer is of utmost importance.

Making medical waves

A few other medical breakthroughs have been grabbing headlines lately.

Dr. Almas Ahmed, a UK-based doctor, has invented an acid-proof make-up formula that protects the skin against acid attacks, which are common in South Asia and the UK.

Dr. Ahmed’s formula has been 10 long years in the making but has now been tested and is ready to be commercially developed. The compound is acid-proof, meaning it has a high boiling point and does not react to the acid thrown on women in acts of violence.

Moreover, the formula is vegan and waterproof and soluble in existing make-up without changing its pigments. She is now working on a make-up line with her formula that will likely hit stores in India in 2020.

Another major development is that doctors have managed to replicate a treatment that freed Timothy Ray Brown from HIV. Brown was the first person documented to be HIV-free after two successful but harsh stem cell transplants. In medical circles, he has come to be known as the “Berlin patient” as he was undergoing treatment in the city.

This ‘HIV cure’ of sorts has been used in another patient, the “London patient” and is proving effective for the second time. This individual has been living free from HIV without any medication for the last 16 months.

A third medical miracle was doctors 3D printing a heart. Researchers in Tel Aviv artificially printed a rabbit-sized heart with human tissue. The heart has real cells, blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers, and all the properties of the patient the tissue was sourced from.

Scientists are currently trying to teach this heart how to contract and pump blood. But Dr. Dvir, the project leader, said he expects heart printers to be a common feature in hospitals within the next decade.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

Artificial Intelligencegooglelung cancer prevention