Please note that some translations using Google Translate may not be accurately represented and downloaded documents cannot be translated. Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund assume no liability for inaccuracies that may result from using this third-party tool, which is for website translation.
Please note that some translations using Google Translate may not be accurately represented and downloaded documents cannot be translated. Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund assume no liability for inaccuracies that may result from using this third-party tool, which is for website translation.

Potential of AI and machine learning in cancer care inspires Clarks

Joan and Steve Clark

Summer 2024
By Casey Repasy
Photography by Pretty Instant

Steve and Joan Clark made their initial investment in artificial intelligence research in 2017, driven by a deep-seated conviction that this technology would revolutionize the world, particularly in the realm of health care and cancer care. And Dana-Farber agrees.

Recent advancements in AI and machine learning have transformed the study of diseases including pancreatic cancer, which is notoriously difficult to treat. Sadly, nearly 80% of patients with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage when the cancer has already spread, rendering surgical intervention impossible. However, Dana-Farber investigators are exploring AI applications in early detection that could lead to improved outcomes.

In 2018, a groundbreaking project led by Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center and the Robert T. and Judith B. Hale Chair in Pancreatic Cancer at Dana-Farber, centered on analyzing annotated images on CT scans of body composition in pancreatic cancer patients. Their findings unveiled a significant trend: patients frequently displayed indications of skeletal muscle wasting upon diagnosis.

Recognizing the need for more extensive image analysis, Michael Rosenthal, MD, PhD, a radiologist and collaborator with Wolpin, developed an AI tool to automate the reading of these scans. Since then, the tool has analyzed over 100,000 CT scans, a task that would have been nearly impossible if conducted solely by humans. The ultimate goal of this work is to identify signals—whether in blood, scans, or medical records—that could facilitate earlier detection of pancreatic cancer.

“We have a unique opportunity to spearhead significant advancements in this field.”

Steve Clark

To build on this foundation and propel this vital research forward, the Clarks recently gave $1.14 million to endow Wolpin’s work in AI and machine learning, specifically targeting gastrointestinal cancers. The Clarks strategically allocated these funds, recognizing that while AI holds immense promise as a tool, establishing the necessary infrastructure requires substantial financial investment. “The Dana-Farber Endowment offers a natural avenue for AI technology,” Steve explains. “The initial capital is invested, generating income annually in perpetuity. By combining an endowment with current-use funding, we have a unique opportunity to spearhead significant advancements in this field.”

“We are very grateful for Steve and Joan’s continued partnership and generous support of new ideas and avenues of research that will propel the field forward,” said Wolpin. “The Clark Family Artificial Intelligence Endowment will help advance research to utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning to break new ground in developing better, more effective treatments and methods of cancer prevention.”

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