Cancer. The word evokes such fear and despair. Despite medicine having made monumental leaps, science is yet to find a cure for the disease that is responsible for 1 in 6 deaths globally. With the types and diagnosis rates increasing, we are left wondering if a cure is in sight for this complex disease. Recent WHO reports state that 1 in 10 Indians will develop cancer and 1 in 15 Indians will die of it. February 4 is World Cancer Day and we thought it apt to dive into advancements made in the diagnosis, treatment, and cure for cancer. Technology has pushed us closer towards the elusive cure. Data is a strong ally in the fight against cancer and the results so far are promising. The disease that has stumped researchers and oncologists with its complexity is a little easier to make sense of with the help of data science. Machine learning and big data have made headway in the way research and treatment are approached. 

Early diagnosis

There is a lot to be gleaned from the data generated from clinical trials, patient records, and the existing research. This is where big data and predictive analytics comes into play. The earlier the diagnosis, the greater the chances of survival and recovery. The survival rate drops with diagnosis in the later stages. Most people get diagnosed in the later stages as sometimes, the symptoms are hard to recognize or they only appear in the final stages. By dipping into the database, it is possible to recognize the symptoms in the early stages or even detect cancer by means of data science and machine learning from routine tests (blood samples, saliva, etc). Data science is incorporated into spectrum analysis to analyze the data collected in the diagnostic phase. Techniques like data visualization and models are used to red flag the cancer samples with high accuracy (95-100%). Genome sequencing is another avenue to be explored when it comes to identifying mutations that cause higher risks for certain types of cancer.

Treatment

Data is crucial in the treatment of cancer. This baffling disease has no cure-all. The medicine that works for one patient may not produce the same results on another. Big data helps in keeping track of all the new medicines that hit the market and comparing similar symptoms and prognosis with the existing database can help doctors make better-informed decisions regarding the most suitable course of action. It is possible to predict a patient’s reaction to a treatment based on the data from past clinical trials. Predictive analytics helps with identifying high-risk patients, monitoring tumor characteristics, and in pathology. 

Cancer is a disease that causes changes in the genetic makeup of a person. The ability to study the genetic changes that led to the mutation of cells combined with sequencing builds a strong framework for research. Artificial Intelligence is being used in targeted drug development that specifically works on the cancerous cells. It is our hope to one day find a cure for this disease and that day might be drawing closer due to the use of Big Data and AI that help researchers find patterns and valuable insights.

‘Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.’ – Wayne W. Dyer

Technology has always surprised us and we believe it will continue to do so. It is our strongest defense which we use to rise up to any occasion. The coronavirus outbreak has held most of the world in its grip of terror. In attempts to contain the virus, data mapping is being used to give people information about the infected neighborhoods in attempts to avoid the spread. While this is not a cure, it provides much-needed comfort that we are one step closer to battling the danger staring us in the face.

The unknown terrifies us but we have to remember that fear will never take us forward. Emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and Big Data can guide us in our journey to make the unknown known. They have enormous potential and we can use it to accelerate our progress. Mankind’s progress has been characterized by our zeal and resilience to make the world a better place. This World Cancer Day let’s pledge to take the fight against cancer closer to the battlefield and use the best armor at our disposal. Emerging tech can aid the efforts of all the researchers tirelessly looking for a cure. Being brave enough to change our approach when the time calls for it is the only way to succeed. 

 

 

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