Brainstorm Health: AI Cancer Detection, Insys Founder Quits Board, Obamacare Enrollment

Greetings, readers! This is Sy.

Scientists have been attempting to gauge just how much artificial intelligence can be used to supplement–and, in some cases, perhaps even supplant—doctors, radiologists, lab technicians, and other health care workers. Now, new research from Japanese scientists suggests AI could be used to detect colorectal cancer in its earliest stages, before tumors become malignant and the deadly cancer becomes much harder to treat. In fact, the tech was able to detect cancer with 86% accuracy.

Study lead Dr. Yuichi Mori of Showa University presented the new data at the United European Gastroenterology conference in Barcelona. Mori and his team collected tens of thousands of high resolution images of pre-cancerous and cancerous cells in order to kick the machine learning process into gear; their AI algorithm was then able to discern cancers from highly magnified pictures of colorectal polyps within just a second.

The 86% accuracy figure, if it holds steady in future studies, is impressive. Colorectal cancer can become extremely deadly once it’s malignant because it can easily spread to the lymph nodes or blood stream. However, with early detection, the disease can be treated and prevented from worsening.

AI has also been tested in reading X-rays and brain scans and even narrowing down the list of possible genetic diseases a patient suffers from simply by analyzing his or her face. While the technology may not outright replace human doctors and technicians any time soon, it could serve as a useful tool to help physicians speed up diagnostics.

Read on for the day’s news.


BERG, Sanofi team up on AI-flu vaccine project. Speaking of artificial intelligence—biopharma and med tech firm BERG is teaming up with Sanofi Pasteur (the vaccines division of French drug giant Sanofi) to launch a new research effort that uses AI to try and improve flu vaccine outcomes. The project involves identifying biological markers that can help suss out seasonal flu vaccines' effectiveness and comes on the heels of another AI partnership BERG recently struck with AstraZeneca on Parkinson's disease.


Insys Therapeutics' billionaire founder resigns from board of directors. John Kapoor, billionaire founder of Insys Therapeutics, has resigned from the company's board of directors, the firm announced. Kapoor's departure follows his arrest last week by federal officials for his alleged participation in a bribery scheme aimed at getting doctors to prescribe a powerful opioid cancer pain drug (derived from fentanyl). Kapoor has denied committing any crimes. (Reuters)


Obamacare navigators fear slip in enrollment for minorities this year. Open enrollment season for Obamacare begins on November 1. But the navigators who help Americans sign up for insurance and state officials running the health law's marketplaces fear enrollment—especially for Latinos and other minorities—could take a hit this year amid all the confusion about the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration hasn't exactly made enrollment outreach a priority, and some Americans don't even realize Obamacare is still the law of the land. (Kaiser Health News)


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