At this point, there’s no reliable cure for mesothelioma, but researchers keep looking for new treatments. The trick is that there are so many variables among patients’ cases it’s often hard to know which treatments might work best.
That’s where the new artificial intelligence from Owkin may come into play. According to the findings it published in Nature Medicine, Owkin developed a deep-learning program it calls MesoNet. The program is designed to analyze biopsies and predict how the cancer may evolve. The program also found patterns tied to patient outcomes, which may help victims get better treatment.
What are the current treatment options?
There are many different treatment options, but they fall mainly into a few larger categories. As the American Cancer Society notes, these include:
- Surgery. Surgery is often the best option when it is available. If surgeons can act quickly enough, they can even remove the tumor and cure the disease. Unfortunately, doctors are rarely able to diagnose mesothelioma until the disease has moved past the stage where surgery is an option.
- Radiation therapy. Doctors sometimes use x-rays and other high-energy radiation to treat mesothelioma like other cancers. However, they must be careful not to damage the healthy tissues nearby. Because mesothelioma is often spread out, this can make radiation therapy difficult.
- Chemotherapy. There are numerous chemicals approved for treatment. Doctors often use them in combination with other forms of treatment.
- Tumor treating fields. This is a newer form of treatment that was just recently approved by the FDA. It uses electrical fields sent through the body to slow cancer cell division and, as a result, the cancer’s growth.
- Experimental treatments. Because none of the existing treatments offer reliable cures, the world’s scientists keep looking for new answers. Some of the more promising options they’re exploring include vaccine therapy and gene therapy.
Given how many different treatments there are—and that none of them are completely effective—it can be hard for doctors to know what treatments to prescribe. But if Owkin’s claims hold up, MesoNet may help doctors more often select the best available option.
An aid for future learning
The other claim that Owkin made when it released its findings was that MesoNet might help scientists find new biomarkers to make even more and better predictions. These could lead to the development of new treatments. They may also help researchers decide which victims would be most likely to benefit from experimental treatments.
There may not currently be a cure for mesothelioma, but there’s still hope. Many of the world’s greatest minds have long been digging for new answers. Now they may find their efforts boosted by the power of an artificial mind.