Cancer: a Computational Disease That AI Can Cure


Tenenbaum, J. M., & Shrager, J. (2011). Cancer: A Computational Disease that AI Can Cure. AI Magazine, 32(2), 14-26.


Cancer kills millions of people each year. From an AI perspective, finding effective treatments for cancer is a high-dimensional search problem characterized by many molecularly distinct cancer subtypes, many potential targets and drug combinations, and a dearth of high quality data to connect molecular subtypes and treatments to responses. The broadening availability of molecular diagnostics and electronic medical records, presents both opportunities and challenges to apply AI techniques to personalize and improve cancer treatment. We discuss these in the context of Cancer Commons, a “rapid learning” community where patients, physicians, and researchers collect and analyze the molecular and clinical data from every cancer patient, and use these results to individualize therapies. Research opportunities include: adaptively-planning and executing individual treatment experiments across the whole patient population, inferring the causal mechanisms of tumors, predicting drug response in individuals, and generalizing these findings to new cases. The goal is to treat each patient in accord with the best available knowledge, and to continually update that knowledge to benefit subsequent patients. Achieving this goal is a worthy grand challenge for AI.

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