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Category: Microsoft

Cancer researchers embrace AI to accelerate development of precision medicine

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Biomedical researchers are embracing artificial intelligence to accelerate the implementation of cancer treatments that target patients’ specific genomic profiles, a type of precision medicine that in some cases is more effective than traditional chemotherapy and has fewer side effects.

The potential for this new era of cancer treatment stems from advances in genome sequencing technology that enables researchers to more efficiently discover the specific genomic mutations that drive cancer, and an explosion of research on the development of new drugs that target those mutations.

To harness this potential, researchers at The Jackson Laboratory, an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution also known as JAX and headquartered in Bar Harbor, Maine, developed a tool to help the global medical and scientific communities stay on top of the continuously growing volume of data generated by advances in genomic research.

The tool, called the Clinical Knowledgebase, or CKB, is a searchable database where subject matter experts store, sort and interpret complex genomic data to improve patient outcomes and share information about clinical trials and treatment options.

The challenge is to find the most relevant cancer-related information from the 4,000 or so biomedical research papers published each day, according to Susan Mockus, the associate director of clinical genomic market development with JAX’s genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Connecticut.

“Because there is so much data and so many complexities, without embracing and incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning to help in the interpretation of the data, progress will be slow,” she said.

That’s why Mockus and her colleagues at JAX are collaborating with computer scientists working on Microsoft’s Project Hanover who are developing AI technology that enables machines to read complex medical and research documents and highlight the important information they contain.

While this machine reading technology is in the early stages of development, researchers have found they can make progress by narrowing the focus to specific areas such as clinical oncology, explained Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Healthcare in Redmond, Washington.

“For something that really matters like cancer treatment where there are thousands of new research papers being published every day, we actually have a shot at having the machine read them all and help a board of cancer specialists answer questions about the latest research,” he said.

Peter Lee stands with arms crossed behind some plants
Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Healthcare.

Curating CKB

Mockus and her colleagues are using Microsoft’s machine reading technology to curate CKB, which stores structured information about genomic mutations that drive cancer, drugs that target cancer genes and the response of patients to those drugs.

One application of this knowledgebase allows oncologists to discover what, if any, matches exist between a patient’s known cancer-related genomic mutations and drugs that target them as they explore and weigh options for treatment, including enrollment in clinical trials for drugs in development.

This information is also useful to translational and clinical researchers, Mockus noted.

The bottleneck is filtering through the more than 4,000 papers published every day in biomedical journals to find the subset of about 200 related to cancer, read them and update CKB with the relevant information on the mutation, drug and patient response.

“What you want is some degree of intelligence incorporated into the system that can go out and not just be efficient, but also be effective and relevant in terms of how it can filter information. That is what Hanover has done,” said Auro Nair, executive vice president of JAX.

The core of Microsoft’s Project Hanover is the capability to comb through the thousands of documents published each day in the biomedical literature and flag and rank all that are potentially relevant to cancer researchers, highlighting, for example, information on gene, mutation, drug and patient response.

Human curators working on CKB are then free to focus on the flagged research papers, validating the accuracy of the highlighted information.

“Our goal is to make the human curators superpowered,” said Hoifung Poon, director of precision health natural language processing with Microsoft’s research organization in Redmond and the lead researcher on Project Hanover.

“With the machine reader, we are able to suggest that this might be a case where a paper is talking about a drug-gene mutation relation that you care about,” Poon explained. “The curator can look at this in context and, in a couple of minutes, say, ‘This is exactly what I want,’ or ‘This is incorrect.’”

Hoifung Poon sits on a yellow chair
Hoifung Poon , director of precision health natural language processing with Microsoft’s research organization, is leading the development of Project Hanover, a machine reading technology.

Self supervision

To be successful, Poon and his team need to train machine learning models in such a way that they catch all the potentially relevant information – ensure there are no gaps in content – and, at the same time, weed out irrelevant information sufficiently to make the curation process more efficient.

In traditional machine reading tasks such as finding information about celebrities in news stories, researchers tend to focus on relationships contained within a single sentence, such as a celebrity name and a new movie.

Since this type of information is widespread across news stories, researchers can skip instances that are more challenging such as when the name of the celebrity and movie are mentioned in separate paragraphs, or when the relationship involves more than two pieces of information.

“In biomedicine, you can’t do that because your latest finding may only appear in this single paper and if you skip it, it could be life or death for this patient,” explained Poon. “In this case, you have to tackle some of the hard linguistic challenges head on.”

Poon and his team are taking what they call a self-supervision approach to machine learning in which the model automatically annotates training examples from unlabeled text by leveraging prior knowledge in existing databases and ontologies.

For example, a National Cancer Institute initiative manually compiled information from the biomedical literature on how genes regulate each other but was unable to sustain the effort beyond two years. Poon’s team used the compiled knowledge to automatically label documents and train a machine reader to find new instances of gene regulation.

They took the same approach with public datasets on approved cancer drugs and drugs in clinical trials, among other sources.

This connect-the-dots approach creates a machine learned model that “rarely misses anything” and is precise enough “where we can potentially improve the curation efficiency by a lot,” said Poon.

Collaboration with JAX

The collaboration with JAX allows Poon and his team to validate the effectiveness of Microsoft’s machine reading technology while increasing the efficiency of Mockus and her team as they curate CKB.

“Leveraging the machine reader, we can say here is what we are interested in and it will help to triage and actually rank papers for us that have high clinical significance,” Mockus said. “And then a human goes in to really tease apart the data.”

Over time, feedback from the curators will be used to help train the machine reading technology, making the models more precise and, in turn, making the curators more efficient and allowing the scope of CKB to expand.

“We feel really, really good about this relationship,” said Nair. “Particularly from the standpoint of the impact it can have in providing a very powerful tool to clinicians.”

Related:

John Roach writes about Microsoft research and innovation. Follow him on Twitter.

 

The post Cancer researchers embrace AI to accelerate development of precision medicine appeared first on The AI Blog.

Microsoft and Nuance join forces in quest to help doctors turn their focus back to patients

Imagine a visit to your doctor’s office in which your physician asks you how you’ve been feeling, whether your medication is working or if the shoulder pain from an old fall is still bothering you — and his or her focus is entirely on you and that conversation.

The doctor is looking at you, not at a computer screen. He or she isn’t moving a mouse around hunting for an old record or pecking on the keyboard to enter a diagnosis code.

This sounds like an ideal scenario, but as most people know from their own visits to the doctor, it’s far from the norm today.

But experts say that in an exam room of the future enhanced by artificial intelligence, the doctor would be able to call up a lab result or prescribe a new medicine with a simple voice command. She or he wouldn’t be distracted by entering symptoms into your electronic health record (EHR). And at the end of the visit, the essential elements of the conversation would have been securely captured and distilled into concise documentation that can be shared with nurses, specialists, insurance companies or anyone else you’ve entrusted with your care.

A new strategic partnership between Microsoft and Nuance Communications Inc. announced today will work to accelerate and deliver this level of ambient clinical intelligence to exam rooms, allowing ambient sensing and conversational AI to take care of some of the more burdensome administrative tasks and to provide clinical documentation that writes itself. That, in turn, will allow doctors to turn their attention fully to taking care of patients.

Of course, there are still immense technical challenges to getting to that ideal scenario of the future. But the companies say they believe that they already have a strong foundation in features from Nuance’s ambient clinical intelligence (ACI) technology unveiled earlier this year and Microsoft’s Project EmpowerMD Intelligent Scribe Service. Both are using AI technologies to learn how to convert doctor-patient conversations into useful clinical documentation, potentially reducing errors, saving doctors’ time and improving the overall physician experience.

“Physicians got into medicine because they wanted to help and heal people, but they are spending a lot of their time today outside of the care process,” said Joe Petro, Nuance executive vice president and chief technology officer. “They’re entering in data to make sure the appropriate bill can be generated. They’re capturing insights for population health and quality measures. And although this data is all important, it’s really outside a physician’s core focus on treating that patient.”

 

YouTube Video

Primary care doctors spend two hours on administrative tasks for every hour they’re involved in direct patient care, studies have shown. If they don’t capture a patient’s complaint or treatment plan during or shortly after an exam, that documentation burden will snowball as the day goes on. In another recent study, physicians reported one to two hours of after-hours work each night, mostly related to administrative tasks.

This shift to digital medical record keeping and so-called ‘meaningful use’ regulations is well-intentioned and has provided some important benefits, said Dr. Ranjani Ramamurthy, senior director at Microsoft Healthcare who leads the company’s EmpowerMD research.

People no longer have to worry about not being able to read a doctor’s handwriting or information that never makes it into the right paper file. But the unintended consequence has been that doctors are sometimes forced to focus on their computers and administrative tasks instead of their patients, she said.

After starting her career in computer science, Ramamurthy went back to school to get a medical degree and pursue cancer research. But as she walked the halls of the hospital every day, she couldn’t help thinking that she was missing an opportunity to use her background to create tech solutions that could reinvigorate the doctor-patient relationship.

Ramamurthy noted that most physicians got into healthcare because they want to use their skills and expertise to treat patients, not to feel tethered to their keyboards.

“We need to work on building frictionless systems that take care of the doctors so they can do what they do best, which is take care of patients,” she said.

Built on Microsoft Azure — and working in tandem with the EHR — this new technology will marry the two companies’ strengths in developing ambient sensing and conversational AI solutions. Those include ambient listening with patient consent, wake-up word, voice biometrics, signal enhancement, document summarization, natural language understanding, clinical intelligence and text-to-speech.

Nuance is a leading provider of AI-powered clinical documentation and decision-making support for physicians. Leveraging deep strategic partnerships with the major providers of EHRs, the company has spent decades developing medically relevant speech recognition and processing solutions such as its Dragon Medical One platform, which allows doctors to easily and naturally enter a patient’s story and relevant information into an EHR using dictation. Nuance conversational AI technologies are already used by more than 500,000 physicians worldwide, as well as in 90 percent of U.S. hospitals.

Microsoft brings deep research investments in AI and partner-driven healthcare technologies, commercial relationships with nearly 170,000 healthcare organizations, and enterprise-focused cloud and AI services that accelerate and enable scalable commercial solutions. Earlier this month, for instance, Microsoft announced a strategic collaboration to combine its AI technology with Novartis’ deep life sciences expertise to address challenges in developing new drugs.

In other areas, Azure Cognitive Services offers easy-to-deploy AI tools for speech recognition, computer vision and language understanding, and trusted Azure cloud services can support the user’s compliance with privacy and regulatory requirements for healthcare organizations.

As part of the agreement, Nuance will migrate the majority of its current on-site internal infrastructure and hosted products to Microsoft Azure. Nuance already is a Microsoft Office 365 customer for its more than 8,500 employees worldwide, empowering them with the latest in collaboration and communications tools, including Microsoft Teams.


“We need to work on building frictionless systems that take care of the doctors so they can do what they do best, which is take care of patients.”

~ Dr. Ranjani Ramamurthy, senior director at Microsoft Healthcare


“Just capturing a conversation between two people has been a thorny technical problem for a long time, and a lot of companies have attempted to crack it,” Petro said. “This partnership brings two trusted healthcare superpowers together to solve some of the most difficult challenges and also to leverage the most innovative advances we’ve made in AI, speech and natural language processing.”

The companies will expand upon Nuance’s early success with ACI and expect the technology to be introduced to an initial set of physician specialties in early 2020, and then it will be expanded to numerous other medical specialties over the next few years, Petro said. Initially, the ACI output may be checked by a remote reviewer with medical expertise to provide an important quality check and produce additional training data for the AI models. Once the system has proven its accuracy for a given physician, the ACI documentation will go directly to that physician, who can review it, make any necessary revisions and sign off on a treatment plan all in real-time, Petro said.

With a patient’s consent, ACI is designed to securely ingest and synthesize patient-doctor conversations, integrate that data with information from an EHR, populate a patient’s chart and also help the EHR deliver intelligent recommendations to the doctor.

With innovations in multi-party speech recognition, language understanding and computer vision, these tools can listen to the encounter between the doctor and a patient who grants consent, sense whether they’re pointing to a left knee or right knee when verbally describing a particular pain, extract medically relevant details and translate what just occurred in the exam room into actionable clinical documentation and care suggestions.

“Moving forward, we recognize that reducing the burden of clinical documentation is just the beginning,” said Dr. Greg Moore, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for health technology and alliances. “As the core AI improves and becomes more capable, it will be able to understand much more deeply what is going on by observing doctors and nurses in their day to day work. Ambient clinical intelligence will be able to work in tandem with the EHR to help convert those observations into supportive, augmenting actions.”

For instance, an AI-enabled system can learn to recognize when a doctor is talking to a patient about a new medication, and it can automatically review past conversations as well as the patient’s history to reduce the risk of a drug interaction or allergic reaction. Or it can mine a patient’s complicated medical history with new reported symptoms and offer suggestions for potential diagnoses for the doctor to consider.

In addition, the two companies will open up the ACI platform to an ecosystem of partners than can bring other highly valuable AI innovations to the exam room or at the bedside where the ambient sensing device will be present.

“We want ambient clinical intelligence to assist the EHR in delivering recommendations at the time when it matters — not three days later on your patient portal or when a nurse follows up, but when the doctor and patient are face to face and when that information can actually inform care,” Ramamurthy said.

Related:

The post Microsoft and Nuance join forces in quest to help doctors turn their focus back to patients appeared first on The AI Blog.

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Toronto AI is a social and collaborative hub to unite AI innovators of Toronto and surrounding areas. We explore AI technologies in digital art and music, healthcare, marketing, fintech, vr, robotics and more. Toronto AI was founded by Dave MacDonald and Patrick O'Mara.