Cancer Treatment by ‘Dr. Mathematics’

Answer this. Would a cancer patient or his/her family allow a software based on mathematical algorithms to design the treatment plan and assess the prognosis of that plan? Embrace this fact before answering. In a recent study, a computer model of lung cancer made consistently better predictions of the future symptoms suffered by a set of patients undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy than the doctors who actually treated them. This computer model was fed with medical details and treatment history of 121 patients and was used to predict that in next two years how many will suffer from respiratory complications and how many with dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing). It was able to provide a much better and accurate prognosis on how the patients will respond to the treatment in coming two years, which was more accurate then provided by the experience radiologists who were treating those patients.

imagesMathematical analysis of cancer data and software models are becoming pivotal in cancer medicine as there is a constant rise in volume of data on individual patients. This ‘big data’ is in the form of computer scans, medical reports and about a person’s genetic makeup. Medically, it has been proven that cancer tumors behave differently for each individual and hence the treatment protocol varies depending on the type or stage of the cancer which is also determined through complex mathematical analysis.

I believe that such models can be a boon for the success of personalized treatment and it can also play a major role in using humans for clinical trial of new drugs. This could save billions of dollars spent by pharmaceutical organizations every year on such clinical trials.

Do you think that if mathematical models and software prove to be better in determining tumor progress than clinicians then it becomes increasingly important to not go by doctor’s opinion alone? Shouldn’t these models be used by doctor’s in their clinical practice to better serve the patient?

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