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Is Artificial Intelligence About to Transform the Mammogram?

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Regina Barzilay

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Regina Barzilay developed artificial intelligence that detects breast cancer up to five years before it shows up on a traditional mammogram.

Credit: Sophie Park/The Washington Post

When Regina Barzilay returned to work after her breast-cancer leave seven years ago, she was struck by an unexpected thought.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) artificial-intelligence expert had just endured chemotherapy, two lumpectomies, and radiation at Massachusetts General Hospital, and all the brutal side effects that come along with those treatments.

"I walked in the door to my office and thought 'We here at MIT are doing all this sophisticated algorithmic work that could have so many applications,' " Barzilay said. "'And one subway stop away the people who could benefit from it are dying.' "

Barzilay had spent years researching the AI specialty known as natural-language processing, which applies algorithms to textual data. Those skills, she realized, might be put to a different use: predicting cancer. She decided to shift her research.

From The Washington Post
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