Microsoft makes its move into artificial intelligence cancer moonshot realm

The software giant joins rivals IBM and Google in putting supercomputing to work on cancer research and treatment.
By Tom Sullivan
03:07 PM
Microsoft artificial intelligence cancer

Microsoft on Tuesday announced artificial intelligence initiatives specifically targeting cancer. Such work puts the software giant in a supercomputing realm with rivals IBM and Google.

Microsoft said its new initiative includes four research teams. The first is harnessing machine learning and natural language processing to help oncologists glean existing research data to better understand personalized care.

[Special report: Precision medicine: Analytics, data science, EHRs in the new age]

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A second team is pairing machine learning with what Microsoft called "computer vision" in work with radiologists to track tumor progression. 

The third group of researchers is focused on algorithms that scientists can use to learn how cancers develop and, in turn, determine the best treatments.

Finally, the fourth is working on "moonshot efforts that could one day allow scientists to program cells to fight diseases, including cancer," the company said.

Microsoft’s research teams are taking two approaches to applying artificial intelligence to cancer: using tools to model biological process to advance medical knowledge of diseases and harnessing machine learning and analytics to growing data sets to determine treatment regimens.

"Collaboration between biologists and computer scientists is key to making this work," Microsoft corporate vice president Jeannette Wing said in a statement.

[Also: AI, cognitive computing and machine learning are coming to healthcare: Time to invest?]

With this initiative, Microsoft stepped into a realm where IBM and Google are working to apply supercomputing techniques and technologies to cancer research and treatment.

Big Blue, in fact, has made a string of healthcare pacts recently and on Tuesday IBM partnered with MIT to advance cognitive computing, machine vision and artificial intelligence for healthcare.

Google, for its part, late last month joined forces with the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to apply its DeepMind machine learning to certain head and neck cancers. 

 Learn more at the Big Data & Analytics Forum 2016 in Boston Oct. 24-25. 

⇒ MIT professor's quick primer on two types of machine learning for healthcare

⇒ Must-haves for machine learning to thrive in healthcare

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