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Seven-second leukemia cell test: AHEAD improves leukemia diagnosis efficiency with AI
Fisher Yu, DIGITIMES, Taipei

Leukemia is one of the most common cancers. Initial diagnosis and follow-ups are based on the interpretation of flow cytometry results - a gold standard in clinical evaluation of the presence of residual cancer cells - performed by doctors laboriously checking and correlating many combinations of the biomarkers detected on the surface of cell samples taken from a patient, taking up precious time that could be spent on more critical clinical tasks and patient care.

Machine learning provides a framework to efficiently identify features - for example, biomarker expression on cell surface - or combination thereof to enable the interpretation of flow cytometry results. AHEAD's "flow" model leverages historical clinical data to dramatically reduce the time required by physician to perform an evaluation of test results - from 20 minutes to seven seconds at 90% concordance rate with physician - providing immediate feedback, leveraging the experience and knowledge of many physicians, which take years to acquire. Through cloud computing, this service can be provided to hospitals and clinics which do not have the expertise in interpreting flow cytometry results.

Deep learning models are also being developed, combining both treatment history and past clinical examination data, to provide more accurate prognosis prediction which will guide the course of treatment with greater confidence. This is a substantially more complex problem which must examine and take into account different types of clinical data simultaneously - a task difficult to visualize by human.

Founded in 2017, AHEAD is led by key opinion leaders in hematology and experts in artificial intelligence and data science in Taiwan. The AI team is led by Chi-Chun Lee, associate professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering of National Tsing Hua University (NTHU). The data science team is led by Andrea Wang at National Taiwan University (NTU). NTU and NTHU are both top research universities in Taiwan.

Ming Yao and Bor-Sheng Ko at the Division of Hematology and Oncology of National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), led by Jih-Luh Tang at the Tai Cheng Stem Cell Therapy Center of National Taiwan University (NTU), form the medical team providing clinical hematology expert guidance.

NTUH, founded in 1895, is a world-renowned medical center and leader in Taiwan's health care industry. With nearly 40 years of experience in practicing bone marrow transplant, it has accumulated considerable amount of clinical treatment experience and data on leukemia. AHEAD was born out of this environment.

Taiwan's healthcare industry is renowned for its comprehensive population coverage, high quality healthcare and was ranked 9th in the Bloomberg Healthcare Efficiency Index in 2018. Moreover, high quality AI talent pools and AI research performance in Taiwan are also highly recognized among multiple tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon.

Taiwan is also in a particularly privileged position, given its tradition in medical research and public health, to play a leading role in bringing smart medicine to the world. AHEAD, drawing its strength from a multidisciplinary team, is actively participating in the vibrant AI healthcare startup scene, further contributing and supporting Taiwan to become the global leader in the smart medicine industry.

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