How one company is using artificial intelligence to develop a cure for cancer

Close up of pancreatic cancer cell

Close up of pancreatic cancer cell

Boston-based Berg has spent the last six years perfecting an artificial intelligence platform that may soon crack the cancer code.

Could we be just two or three years away from curing some forms of cancer? Niven Narain, the president of Berg, a small Boston-based biotech firm, says that may very well be the case.

With funding from billionaire real-estate tycoon Carl Berg as well as from Mitch Gray, Narain, a clinical scientist by training, and his small army of scientists, technicians, and programmers, have spent the last six years perfecting and testing an artificial intelligence platform that he believes could soon crack the cancer code, in addition to discovering valuable information about a variety of other terrible diseases, including Parkinson’s.

Thanks to partnerships formed with universities, hospitals, and even the U.S. Department of Defense, Berg and its supercomputers have been able to analyze thousands of patient records and tissue samples to find possible new drug targets and biomarkers.

All this data crunching has led to the development of Berg’s first drug, BPM 31510, which is in clinical trials. The drug acts by essentially reprogramming the metabolism of cancer cells, re-teaching them to undergo apoptosis, or cell death. In doing so, the cancer cells die off naturally, without the need for harmful and expensive chemotherapy.

So far, Berg has concentrated most of its resources on prostate cancer, given the large amount of data available on the disease. But thanks to recently announced partnerships, the firm is now building a new model targeting pancreatic cancer, which is one of the deadliest forms of cancers with a survivorship rate of only 7%.

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Happy Ending for 10-Month-Old’s Brave Cancer Battle

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Raakhee Mirchandani cradles her daughter, Satya, at one of her many doctors appointments after she was diagnosed with cancer. (Photo: Raakhee Mirchandani)

By Raakhee Mirchandani; This story originally appeared in the New York Daily News.

Instead of planning her first birthday party, I thought about her funeral. And I began to imagine a life without her. Satya, the cherub-cheeked little lady we had brought into the world 10 months ago, had just been diagnosed with cancer.

It was Stage 1, she was well under 18-months-old and otherwise healthy. As if “otherwise healthy” mattered, the facts were that an MRI showed a tumor sitting between her kidney and aorta, dangerously close to her heart. Our hearts.

Satya’s name came to me in a dream. When I woke up there was only one word on my lips (Satya is Sanskrit for truth). I knew her middle name would be Devi (Sanskrit for goddess) after my grandmother. Our daughter would be Satya Devi Singh, translated it means Truth Goddess Lion. Good luck keeping this kid down, I thought, as I traced the letters over and over on my pregnant belly.

 

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The Future of Cancer: Closer to a Cure

Sloan Kettering CEO Craig Thompson on the revolution under way in cancer prevention and treatment
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Decades into the declared modern war on cancer, scientists and clinicians are excited by what we are learning. Yet patients and families are too often frustrated by the lack of progress in prevention and treatment.

To understand this seeming paradox, we have to consider what has been learned about the biology of cancer and how we are putting this knowledge to use.

Viewed in this light, there is tremendous hope for the future, both in decreasing an individual’s lifetime risk of getting cancer and in increasing the success of treating those cancers that do arise.

Most people don’t acquire a significantly higher risk of cancer from the genes that they inherit from their parents. Instead, cancer arises as a result of copying errors (mutations) in the inherited genes, as our bodies make new cells to maintain our various organs. A recent widely quoted publication suggested that these errors are an inevitable consequence of trying to copy three billion bits of information as a cell divides.

 

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Trial of radioactive implants offers improved prostate cancer survival

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A prostate cancer treatment using permanently implanted radioactive “seeds” doubles rates of five-year tumour-free survival compared with conventional high-dose radiotherapy, a study has found.

Low-dose-rate prostate brachytherapy (LDR-PB) involves the insertion of tiny radioactive implants into the prostate gland.

A trial comparing the treatment with dose-escalated external beam radiotherapy found that it was much more successful at banishing cancer.

Men who underwent LDR-PB were twice as likely to be cancer-free five years later.

Scientists studied 398 men with cancer that had not spread outside the prostate gland who were judged to be at high risk of treatment failure based on standard test results.

Lead researcher Professor James Morris, from Vancouver Cancer Centre in Canada, said: “At five years follow-up, we saw a large advantage in progression-free survival in the LDR-PB group.

 

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Could this new therapy kill cancer? Canadian doc thinks so

BALTIMORE - AUGUST 15:  Dr. Julie Brahmer (R) and Katie Thornton review PET scans of a patient being treated at the Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins August 15, 2005 in Baltimore, Maryland. Since its inception in 1973, the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins has been dedicated to better understanding human cancers and finding more effective treatments.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

BALTIMORE – AUGUST 15: Dr. Julie Brahmer (R) and Katie Thornton review PET scans of a patient being treated at the Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins August 15, 2005 in Baltimore, Maryland. Since its inception in 1973, the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins has been dedicated to better understanding human cancers and finding more effective treatments. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

TORONTO – A Canadian doctor is combining two trial cancer therapies in to a new treatment that he says will deliver a “one-two punch” to the illness.

“It’s not a matter of if it’ll go into the clinic, it’s a matter of when and that to me is the basis of my excitement,” Dr. Robert  Korneluk, one of the most senior scientists at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, told Global News.

Korneluk says the treatment first rips the guts out of cancer cells, knocking the disease to its knees before it’s wiped out by a second therapy.

Both of these burgeoning cancer therapies are in clinical trials now. As standalone options, they aren’t as potent, but Korneluk and his collaborators hope to test the two treatments in tandem.

And both parts of the combination therapy have Canadian fingerprints all over them.

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