PHDA, Amazon Partner to Improve Care with Machine Learning

Posted on: Tuesday, August 13, 2019 By: KorchekStaff

The Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance and Amazon Web Services will use machine learning to advance healthcare innovation.

August 12, 2019 - The Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance (PHDA) is partnering with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to improve medical imaging, cancer diagnostics, precision medicine, voice-enabled technologies, and other areas of healthcare with machine learning. 

The AWS Machine Learning Research sponsorship will enable PHDA scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to accelerate research and product commercialization efforts across eight projects. 

Projects could have the potential to create an individualized risk score for every cancer patient, which will help providers better predict a patient’s response to treatment. Other projects will aim to use a patient’s verbal and visual cues to diagnose and treat mental health symptoms, and to reduce medical errors by mining all data in patient medical records. 

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh are using AWS resources to improve diagnosis and treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms, the 13th leading cause of death in western countries. Currently, clinicians can only use the measurements of an aneurysm’s diameter and growth rate to predict the risk of a rupture. 

“With the latest advances in machine learning, we are developing an algorithm that will provide clinicians with an objective, predictive tool to guide surgical interventions before symptoms appear, improving patient outcomes,” said David Vorp, PhD, associate dean for research at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering.

Additionally, a team from CMU will leverage AWS support to develop algorithms and software tools to better understand the origin and evolution of tumor cells. The project will use machine learning to generate insights into how tumors predict, as well as how likely they are to change and grow in the future. 

“Data-driven, genomic methods guided by an understanding of cancers as evolutionary systems have relevance to numerous aspects of clinical cancer care,” said Russell Schwartz, PhD, professor of biological sciences and computational biology at CMU. 

“These include determining which precancerous lesions are likely to become cancers, which cancers have a good or bad prognosis, and which of those with bad prognoses might respond long-term to specific therapies.”

AWS resources will also support several precision medicine projects. One of these projects will focus on identifying genetic drivers of cancer within individual tumors, while another will aim to create a personalized risk score for breast cancer recurrence. 

Formed in 2015, the PHDA brings together the leading health sciences research at the University of Pittsburgh, computer science and machine learning capabilities of CMU, and the clinical care, patient data and commercialization expertise of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). 

The PHDA uses the big data generated in healthcare to transform the way providers treat and prevent diseases, and to engage patients in their own care. With new machine learning toolsand advances in computing power, like those offered by Amazon, PHDA will be able to rapidly translate research insights into treatments and services that could significantly improve patient health. 

“We believe that machine learning can significantly accelerate the progress of medical research and help translate those advances into treatments and improved experiences for patients,” said Swami Sivasubramanian, vice president of machine learning for AWS. 

“We are excited to bring our machine learning services and cloud computing resources to support the high-impact work being done at the PHDA.”

By partnering with AWS, PHDA will continue its efforts to advance healthcare delivery and disease treatment. 

“This collaboration with AWS complements the unique strengths of the PHDA's founders and will provide unparalleled resources to our researchers,” said Tal Heppenstall, president of UPMC Enterprises, which funds the PHDA and focuses on commercializing its breakthroughs. 

“By leveraging AWS machine learning and artificial intelligence services, we can help Pittsburgh become the premier hub of technology innovation in health care, drawing innovators from companies big and small to join us in this critical effort to revolutionize the delivery of health care.”

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