Google is developing AI that can detect lung cancer earlier than trained radiologists

Google is developing a deep learning model that can detect early-stage lung cancer in CT scans up to a year before a trained radiologist's diagnosis, the tech giant announced at its annual I/O developer conference on May 7.

Lily Peng, MD, PhD, a product manager on the Google Brain artificial intelligence research team, presented "promising, but early" findings of a study in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute and Northwestern University during the keynote. The study's results will soon be published in Nature Medicine.

Using CT scans of lung cancer patients, the model's AI was trained to identify malignancies "with a performance that meets or exceeds that of trained radiologists," Dr. Peng said.

In one particular case, the model was able to detect a miniscule malignancy in a CT scan taken one year before a patient was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. When six radiologists were shown the same scan, only one identified the early-stage malignancy.

According to Dr. Peng, the technology could increase early detection for the 80 percent of lung cancers that are not caught until their later stages, increasing survival rates by an estimated 40 percent.

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