Google Cloud to provide DoD with an AI enabled cancer diagnostic system

In collaboration with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), Google Cloud will supply Department of Defense medical facilities with a prototypical artificial intelligence digital-pathology system.

The project is intended to help physicians improve the accuracy of cancer diagnoses by providing DoD medical centers with augmented reality microscopes with overlaid AI technology.

The prototype will utilize TensorFlow, an open-source machine learning platform, and the Google Cloud Healthcare API to assist military doctors in detecting cancer.

Google’s platform will be used for research only at select Defense Health Agency treatment facilities and Veteran’s Affairs hospitals. The DoD has future plans to eventually expand the platform across the broader U.S. Military Health System.  


Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., exceeded only by heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2017, the CDC reported more than 1.7 million new cases of cancer and over 599,000 cancer deaths.

Diagnostic errors arise when a diagnosis is missed, delayed or inaccurate and can result in a range of outcomes, from little to no harm to death. Errors can also negatively affect healthcare systems by forcing them to complete unnecessary medical procedures and cover the costs of unnecessary care or medical liability expenses.

An estimated 5% of outpatient diagnoses are conducted in error, according to research published in BMJ Quality & Safety. That results in the misdiagnosis of nearly 12 million patients every year, according to the study.

Meanwhile, the Defense Health Agency spends approximately $1.7 billion of its annual budget on cancer research, and that figure continues to grow.


Google has been working to integrate into the health space for some time now. Just this year, Google Cloud has entered into several partnerships with healthcare companies.

In January, it began a partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital and ProofPilot to create a clinical research platform targeted at academic medical centers and universities. Then in May, the DIU tapped Google Cloud to build a secure cloud management tool to detect, protect against, and respond to cyber threats worldwide. More recently in August, Google Cloud selected Amwell to be its preferred telehealth provider and vice versa.


“To effectively treat cancer, speed and accuracy are critical,” said Mike Daniels, the vice president of global public sector at Google Cloud, in a statement. “We are partnering with DIU to provide our machine learning and artificial intelligence technology to help frontline healthcare practitioners learn about capabilities that can improve the lives of our military men and women and their families.”


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