AI Diagnoses Illness Based On the Sound of Your Voice

Voices offer lots of information. Turns out, they can even help diagnose an illness — and researchers are working on an app for that. The National Institutes of Health is funding a massive research project to collect voice data and develop an AI that could diagnose people based on their speech. Everything from your vocal cord vibrations to breathing patterns when you speak offers potential information about your health, says laryngologist Dr. Yael Bensoussan, the director of the University of South Florida’s Health Voice Center and a leader on the study.

We asked experts: Well, if you close your eyes when a patient comes in, just by listening to their voice, can you have an idea of the diagnosis they have?” Bensoussan says. “And that’s where we got all our information.”

Someone who speaks low and slowly might have Parkinson’s disease. Slurring is a sign of a stroke. Scientists could even diagnose depression or cancer. The team will start by collecting the voices of people with conditions in five areas: neurological disorders, voice disorders, mood disorders, respiratory disorders and pediatric disorders like autism and speech delays. The project is part of the NIH‘s Bridge to AI program, which launched over a year ago with more than $100 million in funding from the federal government, with the goal of creating large-scale health care databases for precision medicine.

We were really lacking large what we call open source databases,” Bensoussan says. “Every institution kind of has their own database of data. But to create these networks and these infrastructures was really important to then allow researchers from other generations to use this data.” This isn’t the first time researchers have used AI to study human voices, but it’s the first time data will be collected on this level — the project is a collaboration between USF, Cornell and 10 other institutions. “We saw that everybody was kind of doing very similar work but always at a smaller level,” Bensoussan says. “We needed to do something as a team and build a network.”

The ultimate goal is an app that could help bridge access to rural or underserved communities, by helping general practitioners refer patients to specialists. Long term, iPhones or Alexa could detect changes in your voice, such as a cough, and advise you to seek medical attention.

Source: https://www.npr.org/

New Cancer Drug Halts Tumour Growth

A drug that could stop cancer cells repairing themselves has shown early signs of working. More than half of the 40 patients given berzosertib had the growth of their tumours halted. Berzosertib was even more effective when given alongside chemotherapy, the trial run by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Royal Marsden NHS Trust in UK suggested. The trial was designed to test the safety of the drug. The drug is the first to be trialled of a new family of treatments, which block a protein involved in DNA repairBlocking this protein prevents cancers from mending damage to their cells. It’s part of a branch of treatment known as “precision medicine“, which targets specific genes or genetic changes.

The study involved patients with very advanced tumours, for whom no other treatment had worked. This was what is known as a “phase onetrial, which is only designed to test the safety of a treatment. But the ICR said the researchers did find some early indications that berzosertib could stop tumours growing. One of the study’s authors, Prof Chris Lord, a professor of cancer genomics at the ICR, said these early signs were “very promising”, adding that it was unusual in phase one trials to see a clinical response. Further trials will be needed to demonstrate the drug’s effectiveness, though.

This study involved only small numbers of patients…Therefore, it is too early to consider berzosertib a game changer in cancer treatment,” said Dr Darius Widera at the University of Reading. “Nevertheless, the unusually strong effects of berzosertib, especially in combination with conventional chemotherapy, give reasons to be optimistic regarding the outcomes of follow-up studies.”

One patient in the trial, with advanced bowel cancer, had his tumours completely disappear after treatment with berzosertib, and has remained cancer-free for two years. Another, whose ovarian cancer returned following a different course of treatment, saw her tumours shrink after combination treatment with the drug and chemotherapyChemotherapy works by damaging cancer cells’ DNA, so using it in conjunction with this new treatment, which stops the cells from repairing themselves, appears to give an even greater benefit. And berzosertib is able to target tumour cells without affecting other healthy cells, Prof Lord said.

Our new clinical trial is the first to test the safety of a brand-new family of targeted cancer drugs in people, and it’s encouraging to see some clinical responses even in at this early stage,” said Professor Johann de Bono, head of drug development at the ICR and the Royal Marsden.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/