The United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) is piloting an innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to expedite the diagnosis of aggressive lung cancer considerably. Developed by Indian tech company Qure.ai
, the software promises same-day diagnosis—a leap from the current time frame, which can stretch to a week.
Lung cancer annually afflicts nearly 50,000 Britons
and tragically takes more than 35,000 people's lives, making it the leading cause of cancer mortality in the UK. Early diagnosis is critical in treating this aggressive form of cancer, and using AI technology to expedite the process could save countless lives.
Pioneering AI technology in Lung Cancer Diagnosis
The technology works by immediately analyzing X-ray scans and alerting doctors of potentially worrisome signs. This immediate scrutiny could reduce the time for diagnosis from a week to the same day the scan is carried out. Early detection could be the difference between life and death in an aggressive illness like lung cancer.
The AI software is being introduced across Greater Manchester as part of an extensive pilot study led by British Covid vaccine firm AstraZeneca. This study involves over 250,000 participants over the next six months. If successful, doctors anticipate the system will be used across the entire NHS.
Interestingly, AstraZeneca is the second Covid vaccine maker to pivot to artificial intelligence. Experts predict that all NHS doctors will soon be expected to incorporate such high-tech software into their work.
AI's Rising Role in Healthcare and its Future Implications
The software is a prioritizing tool, identifying X-rays with the most troubling signs of disease so that doctors can review them first. However, all scans will continue to be examined by healthcare professionals. This increases the efficiency of diagnosis and helps manage the immense pressure currently facing the health service.
"The software allows us to check the most worrying scans as a priority. You could get results the same day. Given the tremendous pressure on the health service, we must make these diagnoses quickly. Still, we only have finite resources," commented Professor Matt Evison, a consultant chest physician at the Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance.
The adoption of AI technology in healthcare has gained momentum recently. A few days ago, Covid vaccine developer BioNTech, which collaborated with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, announced its acquisition of British AI company InstaDeep for £562 million. This acquisition is expected to expedite the process of developing drugs and vaccines.
As technology advances, experts believe AI will play a pivotal role in the NHS in the coming decade. According to Professor Nick Hawes, an AI expert at the University of Oxford, "Every NHS doctor will be trained to work with artificial intelligence shortly. Doctors can use it to decide which treatment works best for a newly diagnosed cancer patient or create a more effective 111-phone referral system. Artificial intelligence will never replace doctors, but it will be an accompanying tool that speeds up the medical process."
With the potential to save thousands of lives, the pilot study of Qure.ai's software is an essential milestone in the fight against lung cancer. It may herald a new era in the broader healthcare sector.