Karina Bhargava—McMaster Kinesiology 2026
Cancer refers to any one of a large number of diseases characterized by the development of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue as well as spread throughout your body.1 It is the second leading cause of death in the world.1 Cancer is caused by mutations to the DNA within cells. These mutations can instruct a healthy cell to allow rapid growth, fail to stop uncontrolled growth or make mistakes when repairing DNA errors.1
Cancer is a highly adaptable disease which causes it to endure the constantly changing microenvironments that its cells encounter2. Cancer cells have a certain degree of adaptive immune resistance, a process in which the cells change their phenotype in response to cytotoxic or proinflammatory immune response9. This response is triggered by the recognition of cancer cells by T cells, leading to the production of immune-activating cytokines9. Cancer cells then hijack mechanisms developed to limit inflammatory and immune responses and protect themselves from the T cell attack9. Because of this process, cancer continues to thwart patients, researchers, and clinicians despite significant progress in understanding its biological underpinnings.3
SOURCE: Future Processing Better Future
As more is learned about the disease itself, more can be learned about how tools can be useful in treatment plans. Currently, artificial intelligence is used in the detection of cancer as it effectively analyzes complex data from many modalities, including clinical text, genomic, metabolomic, and radiomic data (the extraction of mineable data from medical imaging)6. An example of artificial intelligence in cancer diagnosis is imaging tests, which allow your doctor to examine your bones and internal organs in a non-invasive way7. This may include a computerized tomography (CT) scan, bone scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) scan, ultrasound and X-ray7.
SOURCE: Stanford Medicine
Artificial intelligence is also used for cancer treatment through something called “precision medicine.” Precision medicine uses specific information about a person’s tumor to help make a diagnosis, plan treatment, and/ or evaluate the effectiveness of treatment5. It involves testing DNA from a patient’s tumor to identify the mutations or other genetic changes that drive their cancer8. Doctors can select a treatment plan that is best suited for that specific patient. Because no two cancers are identical, precision medicine is important as each patient has a unique combination of genetic changes2.
Overall, artificial intelligence provides a gateway to push the boundary of cancer treatment. Currently, it is used most in the detection of cancers through CT scans, bone scans, and PET scans, among others. However, as artificial intelligence is adopted into clinical oncology, its potential to redefine cancer treatment is becoming evident.
1. Cancer [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2021 [cited 2022Nov13]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20370588
2. Nguyen LTS, Jacob MA, Parajon E, Robinson DN. Cancer as a biophysical disease: Targeting the mechanical-adaptability program [Internet]. Biophysical journal. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2022 [cited 2022Nov13]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35505610/#:~:text=Instead%2C%20cancer%20is%20highly%20adaptable,the%20vascular%20system%20and%20body
3. Linda WB, Hosney A, Schabath MB, Giger ML, Birkbak N, et al. Artificial Intelligence in cancer imaging … – wiley online library [Internet]. American Cancer Society. John Wiley & Sons; 2019 [cited 2022Nov13]. Available from: https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21552
4. Shreve JT, Khanani SA, Haddad TC. Artificial Intelligence in oncology: Current capabilities, future opportunities, and ethical considerations [Internet]. American Society of Clinical Oncology Educational Book. American Society of Clinical Oncology; 2022 [cited 2022Nov13]. Available from: https://ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/EDBK_350652#:~:text=The%20application%20of%20AI%20in,system%20capacity%20and%20allocating%20resources
5. NCI Dictionary of Cancer terms [Internet]. National Cancer Institute. [cited 2022Nov13]. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/precision-medicine
6. Hunter B, Hindocha S, Lee RW. The role of artificial intelligence in early cancer diagnosis [Internet]. National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2022 [cited 2022Nov15]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8946688/
7. Cancer [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2021 [cited 2022Nov15]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20370594
8. Precision cancer medicine: 5 things you should know [Internet]. Brigham Health Hub. Brigham and Women’s Hospital; 2020 [cited 2022Nov15]. Available from: https://brighamhealthhub.org/precision-cancer-medicine-five-things-you-should-know/#:~:text=In%20cancer%2C%20precision%20medicine%20involves,mutations%20in%20the%20tumor%20DNA
9. Ribas A. Adaptive immune resistance: How cancer protects from immune attack [Internet]. National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine; 2015 [cited 2022Nov25]. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26272491/
10. Kornakiewicz A. Automation of Cancer Diagnostics and Treatment Using Artificial Intelligence [Internet]. Future Processing Better Future. Graylight Imaging; 2017 [cited 2023Jan3]. Available from: https://better.future-processing.com/knowledge/automation-of-cancer-diagnostics-and-treatment-using-artificial-intelligence
11. Types of Magnetic Resonance Imaging Exams [Internet]. Stanford Medicine. Stanford Health Care; 2022 [cited 2023Jan3]. Available from: https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-tests/m/mri/types.html