As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to generate significant public interest and media attention, healthcare is no exception.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recently launched the Improving Mortality from Prostate Cancer Together (IMPACT) initiative to improve health outcomes for prostate cancer patients, specifically Black men, who often get diagnosed later and are less likely to receive treatment for the disease.

In recent months, there have been several campaigns targeting prostate cancer rates among Black men, notably including Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe’s Talk That Talk campaign with Janssen. Still, there is an overlap in the capabilities offered by AI to proactively identify cases of prostate cancer that leads to timelier treatment and improved health outcomes.

To that end, Andre Esteva, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Artera, a company offering AI solutions for cancer therapy, spoke about how this innovative technology can support the ACS’ IMPACT initiative and what other possibilities are on the horizon for AI in healthcare.

This interview has been edited lightly for length and clarity.

MM+M: What are your thoughts on the ACS’s IMPACT initiative and how does AI support the mission?

Esteva: We are very excited about the ACS’s IMPACT initiative. With rates of advanced prostate cancer on the rise, we need to improve how we diagnose and treat this disease. AI supports the mission of the IMPACT initiative by providing a fast and effective tool that can help physicians make optimal treatment decisions for each individual patient. 

MM+M: What impact does AI have in terms of addressing prostate cancer from a screening, testing and treatment perspective?

Esteva: The amazing thing about AI is its ability to consistently learn as it is given more data about the task at hand. This is something that neither conventional computer programming nor humans can do. By learning from these large amounts of data, you can develop specialized tools to support clinical care.

For Artera, our multimodal AI looks at the patient’s digital pathology and the patient’s clinical data. It then uses these two streams of information to be able to predict a patient’s likeliest prognosis, long-term outcomes and their response to a particular therapy, enabling providers to personalize localized prostate cancer therapy for each patient. 

MM+M: How could this technology be used across other disease states or medical conditions? Where is there room for improvement and growth?

Esteva: Our technology has the potential to broadly impact patient care across many types of solid tumors. While our commercial focus at the moment is on prostate cancer, we are actively working to develop Artera tests for a variety of other cancers. We look forward to optimizing AI technology in order to one day help the industry grow to a place where this innovative solution helps improve treatment across all types of cancer.

MM+M: What is the most misunderstood aspect of AI in healthcare? How should leaders be considering the use of this innovation going forward?

Esteva: There’s a common misconception in some fields that AI is here to replace people. This is absolutely not the case. We are leveraging AI in ways that are 100% complementary to the work clinicians are doing. The best outcomes come from coupling innovative technology and physician expertise. Our solutions are here to assist the patient and the clinician, not replace anyone. Studies have gone as far as to show that clinicians using AI outperform clinicians that aren’t.

There is also a misconception that all AIs are the same. The truth about AI is that its use of as a tool, its robustness and its applicability are contingent on the quality of data that is fed into the system. To improve it, we must continually develop and validate it. 

As innovations related to AI continue to breakthrough, our hope is that doctors will consider them as a tool for improving precision medicine and the overall patient outcome.