How Google's parent company is supporting early cancer detection: Alphabet CFO talks AI, machine learning in healthcare

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Google and its parent company Alphabet have made advances in health and life sciences research in recent years, including in cancer care and early disease detection, according to Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat.

In an Oct. 21 company blog post, Ms. Porat highlighted Google's technology and research efforts toward enhancing cancer care. As a two-time breast cancer survivor, having been diagnosed in 2001 and again in 2004, Ms. Porat wrote, "I know how incredibly fortunate I am, but I also know that for far too many, a diagnosis comes too late and the best care is beyond reach."

Google is exploring ways to apply artificial intelligence to help specialists improve detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. In 2018, the technology giant developed a deep learning algorithm that helps pathologists examine patient tissue and detect the spread and extent of the cancer. The algorithm can support improved treatment for more patients by pinpointing the location of the cancer accurately, quickly and at a lower cost, according to Ms. Porat.

"Google hopes AI research will further fuel progress on both detection and diagnosis," Ms. Porat wrote. "…Today we can't easily distinguish the cancers we need to find from those that are unlikely to cause further harm. We believe that technology can help with detection, and thus improve the experience for both patients and [physicians.]"

Over the past year, Google and Alphabet have welcomed various new health executives who share comprehensive healthcare backgrounds. David Feinberg, MD, stepped down from his role as president and CEO at Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger in November 2018 to lead Google's healthcare efforts. Within the past month, former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, and former Acting Assistant Secretary for Health Karen DeSalvo, MD, joined the technology giant in health leadership roles.

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