Artificial Intelligence: AI Finds Potential Drug Treatment For Rare Cancer In Children

This could herald a new era in drug discovery for other cancers.

A team of scientists, doctors, and data analysts at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, used AI to achieve a potential breakthrough in the treatment of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), a rare and fast-growing type of brain tumor in children. This cancer is difficult to remove surgically because it does not have well-defined borders (is “diffuse”) and therefore, survival rates have not improved for over 50 years. (The Guardian)

BenevolentAI, a company that has built an AI drug discovery platform, proposed the initial idea for the research. Computer scientists and cancer specialists at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust also participated.

AI-proposed treatment may hit the mark

“The use of AI promises to have a transformative effect on drug discovery,” said Prof Kristian Helin, chief executive of ICR.

“In this study, use of AI has identified a drug combination which appears to have promise as a future treatment for some children with incurable brain cancer. It’s exciting to think that it could become one of the first examples of a treatment proposed by AI going on to benefit patients.”

AI finds the right drug combination

The scientists’ AI systems found that a combination of the drug everolimus with another called vandetanib could treat DIPG.

The researchers found after crunching data on existing drugs through the AI that everolimus could enhance vandetanib’s capacity to “sneak” through the blood-brain barrier and treat the cancer.

The drug regime has already been tested successfully on mice and children, and it will now go on to major clinical trials on a larger group of children.

Prof Peter Richardson, vice-president for pharmacology at BenevolentAI, said: “AI-enhanced approaches are already proving their value in expanding researchers’ capabilities to find innovative new treatment approaches – be it through uncovering new therapeutics or repurposing existing ones – not only in DIPG, but also other diseases in the future.”

Related Story: AI-Powered Tool From Penn Detects Certain Cancers By “Sniffing” Blood Samples

Image: High-grade diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) in a 16-year-old female (Credit Wikimedia Commons)

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