Researchers at the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) recently developed a machine for detecting prostate cancer that only needs 20 minutes of your time and a few ounces of your pee to achieve near 100% accuracy. Human oncologists are only about 30% accurate when it comes to detecting the disease. This is a big deal.
Background: Detecting prostate cancer is, quite literally, a pain in the ass. Under the current paradigm the disease is confirmed through a combination of lab work and invasive diagnostics. This involves a painful biopsy procedure where surgeons remove a tissue sample from the prostate gland itself.
Unfortunately a large number of patients who endure this procedure don’t actually need it. These otherwise healthy people risk hospital infection, surgical death, and lingering side-effects including discomfort, pain, and internal bleeding.
How it works: The KIST team decided to focus on urine because it contains trace amounts of what researchers refer to as “cancer factors.” Typically, humans can’t diagnose prostate cancer using urine because the concentration of these cancer factors is simply not high enough to withstand the standard testing methods.
To overcome this obstacle, the team used a special semiconductor-based sensor sensitive enough to detect enough data for the team’s algorithms to parse and correlate.
Per a press release from the Korean National Council of Science and Technology:
They trained AI by using the correlation between the four cancer factors, which were obtained from the developed sensor. The trained AI algorithm was then used to identify those with prostate cancer by analyzing complex patterns of the detected signals. The diagnosis of prostate cancer by utilizing the AI analysis successfully detected 76 urinary samples with almost 100 percent accuracy.
Quick take: Wow! This is awesome. Assuming everything in the research pans out when scaled to the general population, this could save a lot of lives. On average about 1 in every 41 men will die of prostate cancer, it’s the second leading cause of cancer-related death among men worldwide.
Best of all, the team believes this work can be adapted for other types of cancer.
You can read the team’s research paper here.