ORLANDO, FLA. – While IBM and its Watson Health division have been vocal about their plans to transform healthcare through Deep Learning, NantHealth has been quietly assembling its own platform that uses artificial intelligence to combat one of mankind’s worst healthcare problems – the scourge of cancer.
At the February Health Information Management and Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in Orlando, NantHealth CEO Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong – a billionaire through his development and sale of pharmaceuticals – gave a presentation in which he detailed the company’s creation of an AI processing engine, cloud systems, and high-speed fibre connecting the platform to cancer centres.
The system is able, said Dr. Soon-Shiong, to collect the genomic and proteomic data of cancer patients in real-time. It can process the information using its own database, said to be the largest genomic database of cancer patients in the world, and then prescribe therapies based on the patient’s individual cancer.
The precision-medicine therapy system is called GPS, and NantHealth has recently launched it, said Dr. Soon-Shiong.
It has enabled the company to produce a customized vaccine for cancer patients, which is going to be made available this year. “2017 is the year we will implement the Nant cancer vaccine,” said Dr. Soon-Shiong.
According to the company, GPS Cancer is a unique molecular profile performed in the labs of NantOmics. It integrates whole genome (DNA) sequencing, whole transcriptome (RNA) sequencing, and quantitative proteomics to provide oncologists with a comprehensive molecular profile of a patient’s cancer to inform personalized treatment strategies.
Dr. Soon-Shiong acknowledged there are plenty of skeptics questioning the company’s ability to deliver such a miracle drug. While Dr. Soon-Shiong played a video in which doctors and patients lauded the GPS system and the medications that have put their tumours into remission, critics have noted NantHealth’s lack of peer-reviewed studies.
Nevertheless, Dr. Soon-Shiong said the company will be going forward with its own plans. “This will change the course of cancer,” he asserted.
He said the company is working with 170 oncologists in the United States, and 25 health plans. They are feeding patient data into the NantHealth cloud.
NantHealth’s network, which includes 390,000 miles of high-speed fibre, is capable of processing large amounts of data in seconds.
“There are 14 million cancer patients in the United States, with 1.7 million newly diagnosed. The number of patient data you must process each day is enormous.”
NantHealth’s AI platform, called the Medical Reasoning Engine, looks at genomics, proteomics and imaging data, including spectroscopy and pathology. “It’s a learning system,” said Dr. Soon-Shiong.
By discovering “what the tumour is saying”, NantHealth can develop the right cancer vaccine for the patient. The vaccine triggers the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.
Dr. Soon-Shiong said the human body is producing cancer cells each day, as a normal process. However, at the same time, killer cells regularly fight and dispose of the cancer cells.
It’s when the cancer outwits the immune system that tumours arise. The NantHealth vaccine essentially re-trains the immune system to fight and conquer the cancer cells.
But the right vaccine must be used, one that suits the individual and his or her cancer. “Cancer is an information war, which means we need to gather and harness all of your information in order to stop this dreaded disease,” said Dr. Soon-Shiong.