ACTION on Cancer

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Computing Department

Abstract

Death from cancer is typically both slow and painful, and few families have been spared its scourge. Cancer is also one of the world's greatest killers (13 million deaths and 22 million new cases per year by 2025), and it is estimated that every second person on the planet will develop cancer at some stage of their life.

Over the last 30 years our knowledge about cancer has increased enormously, and now, for the first time, we understand the fundamental nature of the disease(s): malfunctioning in the way that cancer cells process information. All the cells in our bodies process information about their internal state, and communicate with their neighbours, and when this goes wrong cancer can occur.

As everyone's cells are different, and there are very many different ways that this information processing can go wrong and cause cancer, it is not possible to design a single treatment for cancer, or even for a sub-type of cancer such as breast cancer. Instead what is needed are personalised treatments tailored to each patient's cancer. However, such personalised treatments are very expensive to design, and the expertise to do so is limited. In addition, it is often necessary to execute custom designed experiments to better understand what is the best treatment. Therefore the only way to make personalised cancer treatment available to everyone is through laboratoryautomation, and the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

In this project we will develop ACTION, which will be a prototype AI system for the design of personalised cancer treatments. ACTION will focus on chemotherapies - design of drug cocktails. Given initial information about a cancer ACTION will extract all the relevant knowledge it can find about the cancer, both from databases and computational models of cellular information processing that scientists have developed. ACTION will rationally integrate this knowledge, and infer what extra knowledge is required to make the best decision on how to treat the cancer. ACTION will then automatically execute custom designed experiments using laboratory robotics to determine the missing information. Finally, using all the knowledge it has gathered, ACTION will decide on the best chemotherapy.

We will evaluate ACTION using different types of cancer cells grown in the laboratory. This avoids the ethical complexities of working with patients, and is much cheaper and faster. If the development of ACTION is successful it will then move to testing with patient derived cancers.

Publications

10 25 50