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June 4, 2024 | 3 minute read

Artificial Intelligence in Cancer Care: The Future Is Here

Key Takeaways:

  • Cancer care can benefit from artificial intelligence (AI) tools, which can help improve cancer research, diagnosis, personalized treatment and care.
  • AICR funds researchers that use AI for personalized patient support. AI can be integrated into apps that are used to track nutrition, pain levels, exercise and medications for people with cancer.
  • AI technology will not replace medical professionals. Instead, it can help improve efficiency and accuracy in their work.

Artificial intelligence (AI) allows machines to learn from data to make decisions and perform humanlike tasks. It might sound like science fiction, but AI is already integrated into many aspects of health care.

Oncology stands to benefit from AI’s advances. Experts are hopeful that AI can help improve cancer research, diagnosis, personalized treatment and care.

AI in Cancer Care Today

The most frequent uses for AI in oncology are for diagnosing and monitoring cancer. The technology helps radiologists accurately identify suspicious areas on a scan, thus reducing the chance of missing an early cancer.

Advanced AI applications also reveal cancer characteristics that are undetectable to the human eye, allowing for more targeted treatment plans. AI tools can also predict how a person will respond to various treatments.

AI Can Help with Lifestyle

AI tools can improve cancer survivors’ outcomes and quality of life by helping people eat better, become more physically active and manage side effects.

With funding from AICR, Dr. Katie Schmitz, a cancer researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, examined whether a tablet-based virtual assistant called Nurse AMIE (Addressing Malignancies in Individuals Everyday) could help women with metastatic breast cancer manage symptoms.

Nurse AMIE checks with users daily about their sleep, pain, fatigue, distress and activity levels. Based on the responses, Dr. Schmitz says the tool provides guidance to users on:

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Sleep
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Symptom management

It also alerts the oncology team when more intensive care is needed. An initial usability and feasibility study showed users had a positive experience with Nurse AMIE. This research enabled Dr. Schmitz to secure further funding from the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute for a follow-up study on the tool’s effectiveness.

Some dietitians use AI tools to help assess patients’ eating patterns and design meal plans. Patients can use AI-powered apps to accurately estimate the nutrient content of meals based on smartphone photos. Some apps even let you take photos of your food and use AI to predict the recipe ingredients with excellent accuracy. This takes the guesswork out of meal tracking and makes assessments more accurate.

AI Won’t Replace Clinicians

AI technology can’t replace medical professionals. Instead, it helps improve efficiency and accuracy in their work. Virtual assistant tools like Nurse AMIE can also reach more patients for lifestyle interventions when clinics are short-staffed.

“There is a workforce shortage in nutrition, exercise oncology and cancer rehabilitation,” says Dr. Schmitz. “AI interventions could ensure that more people living with cancer have access to personalized support to improve quality of life, function and, in some cases, long-term survival.”

The Future for AI in Oncology

Researchers are hopeful that soon AI tools will be able to predict where a person may develop a future cancer, shifting the focus to prevention instead of treatment. AICR is following the topic of AI in cancer prevention and treatment. The has attracted several grant applications proposing to use AI tools. Stay tuned to see how your donations will advance this innovative science.

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