AI Tool Predicts Risk of Lung Cancer

‘Sybil’ accurately predicted individuals’ lung cancer risk 1 to 6 years into the future

Illustration of lungs with graphs & charts
Image: greenbutterfly/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and around the world and low-dose chest computed tomography (LDCT) is recommended to screen people between 50 and 80 years old who have a significant history of smoking or currently smoke.

Lung cancer screening with LDCT has been shown to reduce deaths from lung cancer by up to 24 percent, but as rates of lung cancer climb among nonsmokers, new strategies are needed to screen and accurately predict lung cancer risk across a wider population.

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A study led by Harvard Medical School investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital, in collaboration with researchers at MIT, developed and tested an artificial intelligence tool known as Sybil.

Based on analyses of LDCT scans from patients in the U.S. and Taiwan, Sybil accurately predicted the risk of lung cancer for individuals with or without a significant smoking history.

Results are published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Lung cancer rates continue to rise among people who have never smoked or who haven’t smoked in years, suggesting that there are many risk factors contributing to lung cancer risk, some of which are currently unknown,” said corresponding author Lecia Sequist, the HMS Landry Family Professor of Medicine in the Field of Medical Oncology at Mass General.

“Instead of assessing individual environmental or genetic risk factors, we’ve developed a tool that can use images to look at collective biology and make predictions about cancer risk,” said Sequist, who is also director of the Center for Innovation in Early Cancer Detection at Mass General and a medical oncologist specializing in lung cancer.

The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommends annual LDCTs for people over age 50 with a 20 pack-year history of smoking, who either currently smoke or have quit smoking within the last 15 years. But less than 10 percent of eligible patients are screened annually.

To help improve the efficiency of lung cancer screening and provide individualized assessments, Sequist and colleagues at the Mass General Cancer Center teamed up with investigators from the Jameel Clinic at MIT.