Researchers from the University of British Columbia and BC Cancer have successfully developed a novel artificial intelligence (AI) model that can predict the survival of cancer patients more accurately using more readily available data compared to previous techniques.
“Predicting cancer survival is an important factor that can be used to improve cancer care,” explained Dr. John-Jose Nunez, the study’s lead author.
“It might suggest health providers make an earlier referral to support services or offer a more aggressive treatment option upfront. Our hope is that a tool like this could be used to personalize and optimize the care a patient receives right away, giving them the best outcome possible.”
The model uses a branch of AI that comprehends complex human language– known as natural language processing (NLP)– to actually analyze notes taken by oncologists following patients’ initial consultations. This is typically the first step of the cancer battle after a diagnosis is issued.
The model was able to identify unique patient characteristics and predict survival rates at six months, 36 months, and 60 months with over 80 percent accuracy.
Cancer survival rates have traditionally been calculated retrospectively. They are also categorized based on a few general indicators– including tissue type and cancer site.
And in spite of oncologists’ familiarity with these survival rates, it can still be difficult to accurately predict a specific individual’s survival rate since there are various complex factors that may impact patient outcomes.
But, the AI model designed by the researchers is able to identify unique clues within patients’ initial consultation documents. This allows for a more refined assessment and is even applicable to all cancers– a major improvement compared to previous models, which have been limited to specific cancer types.
According to Dr. Nunez, the AI model reads consultation documents very similar to how humans would.