Race for the Cure

Computers always beat me at chess! What ELSE are they better at?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Pathologists discover two hundred thousand cases of lung cancer each year. Diagnosis requires time-consuming lab tests and a trained eye for pictures of lung tissue. Is there a better way?

Enter NYU scientists Nicolas Coudray and Aristotelis Tsirigos. They trained a computer by repeatedly showing it pictures of cancerous and healthy lung tissue. It guessed the diagnoses until it knew them like the back of its hard drive.

Next, the computer faced off against real-life pathologists on never-before-seen photos. Turns out, it performed as well as the humans. Like them, it was able to diagnose two separate types of cancer. The tie-breaker? Speed! A computer can make a diagnosis in seconds, compared to minutes for a human pathologist.

These trained systems could replace more time consuming lab tests to speed up cancer diagnoses. That way, patients can start their treatments earlier for a more hopeful outlook.

So, for the time being, computers are the trusty sidekicks. Pathologists- keep calm. Your jobs are safe. For now….