Google is developing a tool that will aid doctors in diagnosing breast cancer using artificial intelligence.
The tool is known as LYmph Node Assistant, or LYNA. It could one day act as a sort of “spell check” for pathologists, the doctors responsible for diagnosing cancer patients through images of their cells.
Tissue taken from the lymph nodes can be a way of detecting whether a patients’ breast cancer has spread beyond the breasts. Pathologists look at tissue samples from breast cancer patients’ lymph nodes to get a sense of how much that particular patient’s tumor has spread, and how aggressive the cancer might be.
Google released on Friday two papers that were published in the journals Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and The American Journal of Surgical Pathology. One paper showed that an algorithm could be used to pick up cancer cells on the tissue images it was presented. The second paper found that it was important for pathologists and the algorithm to work in tandem. Both papers found that the algorithm could detect which slides had metastatic cancer and which ones didn’t 99% of the time.
Researchers found the pathologists who were given the tool performed better than both pathologists who didn’t get the tool and the tool used on its own to pick up cancerous cells on an image.
“This represents a demonstration that people can work really well with AI algorithms than either one alone,” Yun Liu, a member of the Google AI team and an author on the papers said.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has applied artificial intelligence to healthcare before. Through DeepMind, Alphabet’s artificial intelligence company, it’s been working to identify diseases by looking at images of patients’ eyes.
And Google has been working on an algorithm to diagnose diabetic retinopathy, a type of eye disease found in patients with diabetes.