Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have significantly changed the management of colorectal cancer and other malignancies, argued Massive Bio Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer Arturo Loaiza-Bonilla, MD, in his keynote speech at the 2023 NCODA International Spring Forum, which was held March 15-17, 2023, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Loaiza-Bonilla noted that over the past decade, there has been a steady shift in oncology away fromclassifying and treating cancers strictly based on where a tumor exists in the body. “The location-based paradigm we used to use in the past, such as colon cancer, has now become a little less relevant,” said Loaiza-Bonilla. This paradigm shift is happening for two reasons, he explained: The location of a tumor doesn’t necessarily accurately predict how it will behave or respond to treatment. Instead, patient prognosis and treatment decisions are increasingly informed by the use of biological or molecular markers—commonly known as biomarkers.
This change in the management of malignancies has been driven by advances in biomedical technologies that have become available in recent years. Notably, tools such as immunohistochemistry (IHC), fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), and now next-generation sequencing (NGS) have made possible the discovery of gene mutations that drive the growth and metastasis of many cancers, which has in turn led to the development of an ever-expanding list of new therapies that target these cancer biomarkers.
Looking to the future, Loaiza-Bonilla noted that the next revolution will be the development of biomarker multi-omics analysis, which will be capable of measuring an even broader set of important disease-influencing molecules, such as epigenetic markers, mRNAs, proteins, and metabolites in our cells. AI will play a key role in interpreting all of this new data. However, Loaiza-Bonilla cautioned that there are still many questions about how it will be used inhealthcare. What’s the proper role for AI-powered chatbots that are rapidly emerging, for example?
Still, Loaiza-Bonilla calls himself a “passionate enthusiast” about the potential for AI in oncology and medicine more broadly. He cited data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showing that AI can dramatically improve the diagnosis of cancer, and ultimately result in better patient outcomes while cutting costs. In closing, Loaiza-Bonilla described how Massive Bio is already using AI to help patients get access to promising new oncology therapies by downloading and using its app. “Any patient with cancer can get access to it, the same as any provider,” he said, “and it tells them what clinical trials are in proximity within a 50-mile radius, as well as the potential treatment options for them.”