A team of researchers from UK and US has developed a way to use artificial intelligence to predict how cancer might change and spread in patients. Over many years of cancer research, scientists have discovered that tumours actually evolve, allowing them to change their form and the way they spread.
Understanding how this evolutionary process works is considered by many in the field to be a key part of learning how to prevent it from happening. As part of this effort, scientists have collected tissue samples from patients hoping to find a pattern in how they change. But this method has proven to be difficult, because when tumours grow, they also tend to develop mutations that have no impact on their ability to spread. I
n this new effort, the researchers sought to add machine learning to the process in an effort to track evolutionary changes that are involved in spreading. They have named their new system Revolver.
The findings published in the paper, ‘Detecting repeated cancer evolution from multi-region tumor sequencing data,’ in the journal Nature Methods, used new application via a machine learning algorithm to study mutation data and detect patterns. They fed their system data describing 768 tumours from 178 patients who had breast, kidney, bowel or lung cancer. The system sought mutation patterns between patients that appeared to be related to changes that allowed the tumour to spread.
Next, they applied what the system had learned to new patients as a way to assess the state of newly developing tumours, it was correctly identified gene mutations in 95 colorectal patients who had mutations that had been previously identified as drivers of evolution in breast, kidney and lung cancers.
The researchers note that Revolver is just one of the first steps toward developing computer-based tools to better predict how tumours will evolve and such tools should make it easier for doctors to formulate the best treatment plan for a given patient, hopefully, improving their prognosis.