The Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA) has partnered with Microsoft‘s AI for Health initiative, with the ultimate goal of accelerating ovarian cancer research using data science and artificial intelligence (AI).
AI is a broad term that encompasses any use of a computer to accomplish tasks, from sorting to making complex decisions, that are usually associated with intelligent life. In the context of cancer research, AI holds a great deal of promise because it could facilitate the rapid analysis of large amounts of data.
Although cancer can be very simply defined as a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell division, the biological mechanisms that govern cancer growth are incredibly complex. Cancer growth can be affected by a person’s genetics — both the genes a person is born with, as well as mutations that are acquired in cells over the course of an individual’s life — as well as by environmental factors, such as diet, lifestyle, and recreational drug use such as smoking.
These myriad factors can have a substantial effect on important clinical parameters, such as predicting prognoses and determining how a tumor responds to treatment. However, cancer is so complex that it is simply impossible for the human mind to take into account, when doing research, all of the different potentially important factors.
That’s where AI comes in, as computers are able to quickly process much more data than the human brain. As such, AI can be used to identify patterns amid all the complexity of the data, which can yield important new findings and highlight new avenues for future research.
ORCA provides funding to scientists studying ovarian cancer; these researchers are working to better understand the underlying biology of the disease, and to find new strategies for treatment.
With the new partnership with AI for Health — a $60 million, five-year, global program — some OCRA grantees will be able to make use of Microsoft’s AI Lab and computing platform, providing data science expertise and cloud computing power to accelerate their studies.
“I cannot overstate the optimism we feel,” Moran said. “As we have seen AI accelerate science in other diseases, we are thrilled to offer the full power of Microsoft’s world-class AI lab to OCRA grantees.”
Resources from the AI Lab will be available to scientists who receive OCRA’s Collaborative Research Development Grants for next year. In an attempt to advance research from new sources, applications opened in June for researchers who never applied for OCRA grants.