How big data and AI helped one man fight and survive cancer


Once upon a time, there was a man who worked for a technology company. He found out he had an advanced cancer. He tried the “one-size-fits-all” chemo/radiation treatments, but he didn’t get any better. So he went to the healthcare group at his company, asked to work there, and became his own advocate.

And on his journey from cancer patient to cancer survivor, he discovered something amazing: “AI is going to solve the problems that humans can’t,” said Bryce Olson, cancer survivor and global marketing director of the Health and Life Sciences Group at Intel Corp.

Olson recently spoke to John Furrier (@furrier), co-host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile live streaming studio, during the South by Southwest event in Austin. They discussed how AI and big data analytics can help find the cure for many cancers. (*Disclosure below.)

Genomics and AI

At Intel, Olson learned about genomics and precision medicine, which is a way of looking at disease differently. It’s a way of looking at what is fueling the disease, deep within the DNA of a patient. Every disease is diagnosable by DNA, but until very recently, healthcare professionals never had the combination of technology and science to get to much-needed answers.

Using massive compute power, doctors found the “needle in that haystack,” what made Olson’s cancer tick; they found a specific, molecular abnormality, a pathway that was out of control and that a cancer suppressor gene was missing.

“We now found out what was fueling my unique cancer,” said Olson. With that information, he was able to research and find a new medical trial that was testing an inhibitor of that pathway.

Olson explained that humans can’t possibly sift through the reams and reams of the DNA data that is generated for every patient; not to mention looking at treatments and outcomes.

So that’s where the power of AI comes to the forefront, to crunch all the data, analyze it and, ultimately, help to save the lives of many other cancer patients, Olson said.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the South by Southwest. (*Disclosure: Intel sponsors some SXSW segments on SiliconANGLE Media’s theCUBE. Neither Intel nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE