Artificial intelligence may soon help speed up cancer diagnosis. Researchers have developed a new AI-powered blood test that could identify 50 different types of cancers.
The tool, described in Annals of Oncology, has been tested with 6,689 blood samples. Developers said the AI blood test provided promising results, with more than 99 percent accurate detections, ScienceAlert reported.
To create the cancer diagnosis tool, researchers trained a machine learning algorithm to analyze bits of DNA in the blood and separate fragments that may have come from tumours. The program mainly looks for DNA bits that have been methylated, which indicates whether genes became active or inactive inside the cells.
The algorithm allows the blood testing tool to analyze DNA methylation patterns from thousands of blood samples. The program also determines which pattern reflects a certain type of cancer.
“Our previous work indicated that methylation-based tests outperform traditional DNA-sequencing approaches to detecting multiple forms of cancer in blood samples,” Geoffrey Oxnard, an oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said in a statement.
During tests, the cancer diagnosis tool appeared more sensitive to advanced cancer. It detected more than 90 percent of the disease that was already in one of the later stages.
The AI-powered blood test also helped researchers find the cancer’s origins in over 90 percent of the trial cases. The team said knowing where the disease started to grow could help improve treatment strategies for patients.
“The test not only demonstrates the presence of cancer, but provides an accurate address as to the type of cancer and where the health professional should look for the malignancy,” Michael Seiden, lead researcher and president of McKesson Specialty Health’s U.S. Oncology Network in Texas, told HealthDay.
However, the researchers noted the blood test is still in early stages and has limitations. It has low detection rates for early stage cancers and was unable to accurately identify the origin of cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
“Based upon this successful clinical validation in thousands of patients, the test has actually now been launched for limited use on clinical trials,” Oxnard told the BBC. “Before this blood test is used routinely, we will probably need to see results from clinical studies… to more fully understand the test performance.”