Using Artificial Intelligence to choose the best cancer treatment

Date of news: 26 January 2023

Johan Kwisthout is project leader of the PersOn project: Explainable, Maintainable, and Trustworthy Decision Support Systems for Personalised Care in Oncology project. The PersOn programme aims to use Artificial Intelligence to provide more personalised care for cancer patients. By analysing all the data, knowledge and information, treatment outcomes can be better predicted and healthcare providers and patients can jointly choose an appropriate care pathway that will deliver the best quality of life. Johan: "This consortium wants to promote the use of AI technology and the interaction between humans and AI, which will change the roles of the healthcare provider and the patient. The link between technology and the human aspect is very important." Johan knows that people are cautious about AI these days, so he wants to emphasise that humans are and will remain in control in this programme. Johan: "The choice to undergo surgery or not is always personal. The AI carries the information needed to make a well-informed decision."

It might have taken some time, but the programme has received a nice grant. "The programme has been running for about a year now. A lot of time also goes into bringing in partners. We have opted to choose partners who can contribute to the project, while also getting something in return, thereby seeing added value in the collaboration. If they have something to gain, it is also crucial for them that the project succeeds, and that is the kind of commitment we need."

Johan wanted to get started as soon as possible when he heard about the grant. "Cancer is something everyone has to deal with, either as a patient or as a family member or acquaintance of a cancer patient. It truly affects everyone." Johan remains realistic and knows that a lot needs to be done. "We expect to demonstrate some prototypes in five years and we hope it will be available in hospitals in eight to 10 years."

Johan's personal motivation for the project comes from his background as a computer scientist. "I think it is very interesting to look beyond the confines of my own discipline and connect with other disciplines. That's why I find it very interesting that AI falls under the Social Faculty. It is a great opportunity to establish links with social and cognitive AI from the human sciences. It is also a nice challenge to embed AI very broadly within the faculty."

Johan's main task is to lead the project. "I actually make sure everything, from the fundamental research to the application in healthcare and the commercial partners, comes together. We have set up a management structure for this in which we divide everything under four research tracks and six challenges. Each research track has its own leader, and together we form the management team. My role in this is also to connect people and help inspire." Yet it is also a big step for him. "It is the first time for me to lead such a large consortium. Fortunately, there are very experienced people in the management team who can help me. Nevertheless, it remains a whole new challenge for me."

Johan is delighted and is looking forward to the kick-off meeting, which will take place around April. "We can then finally meet physically with all the partners, combine our energy and really get going," said Johan.