A Much More Detailed View
“By using AI to analyze digitized pathology slides, we get a much more detailed view of the complexity of the interaction between the immune system and cancer,” says Mike Montalto, vice president of pathology and clinical biomarker laboratories at Bristol Myers Squibb.
Traditional pathology relies on a trained pathologist to identify key characteristics of disease biology by looking through a microscope. Through digital pathology, - Montalto says, we can do so much more, including quantifying biomarkers in the tumor microenvironment, better visualizing the infiltration of immune cells in the context of stroma or tumor, seeing specific cell to cell interactions, and even characterizing tumors as ‘hot’ or ‘cold’.
“As precision medicines become available to more patients, this level of specificity will play an important role in determining the appropriate treatment based on biology,” he adds.
While AI has the potential to transform drug development and bring us closer to precision medicine for more patients, Bristol Myers Squibb researchers caution that we’re just at the beginning of realizing the full potential of the technology.
What can AI do for Medicine?
“There’s been a lot of talk about what AI could theoretically do for medicine, which is really exciting, but expectations are very high. Consider the self-driving car. We understand that they can work, but we have a long way to go before we’re all commuting in autonomous vehicles,” says Joe Szustakowski, executive director of translational bioinformatics at Bristol Myers Squibb.
Discovering and developing a new drug is much more difficult than driving a car. It requires solving many interconnected problems across biology, chemistry, translational and clinical research.
"Current AI approaches have led to significant breakthroughs in solving several of those obstacles, but are not ready to solve many others." he says. "We need to embrace the challenges and the excitement.”
Bristol Myers Squibb researchers take a measured approach to AI, starting with focused questions, curating significant data sets and emphasizing the need for interdisciplinary expertise. Ultimately, AI is just one of many tools researchers at the company use to uncover more about biology and medicine.