Dr. Roberto Novoa of Stanford Medical School used a database of nearly 130,000 images from the internet to train a deep learning algorithm to identify skin cancers as accurately as his fellow dermatologists.
Using Deep Learning to Identify Melanoma
Published: April 1, 2019
Geoff Hinton: For the foreseeable future, which I think is about five years, what we'll see is this deep learning invading lots and lots of different areas. And it's going to make life a lot better.
Talithia Williams: At least that's the hope. Just consider medicine.
Yann Lecun: Deep learning systems are very good at identifying tumors in images, skin conditions, you know, things like that.
Williams: One of the first attempts with real patients was conducted by Dr. Rob Novoa, a dermatologist at Stanford's Medical School. He knew nothing about deep learning until…
Roberto Novoa: I came across the fact that algorithms could now classify hundreds of dog breeds as well as humans. When I saw this, I thought, "My god, if it can do this for dog breeds, it can probably do this for skin cancer as well."
So, we gathered a database of nearly 130,000 images from the internet, and these images had labels of melanoma, skin cancer, benign mole. And using those, we began training our algorithms.
Williams: The next step was to see how it stacked up against human doctors.
Novoa: The algorithms did as well as, or better than our sample of dermatologists, who were from academic practices in California and all over the country.
Williams: And all this can be put on a phone.
Novoa: Give it a moment, and it accurately classified it as a benign…
Technology has always changed the way we practice medicine, and will continue to do so, but I'm skeptical as to its ability to completely eliminate entire fields. It will change them, but it won't eliminate them.
Williams: Rather than replace doctors, Rob thinks this will expand access to care.
ROB NOVOA: In the future, a primary care doctor or nurse practitioner in a rural setting, would be able to take a picture of this and be able to more accurately diagnose what's going on with it.
NOVA Wonders: Can We Build a Brain?
Directed by: Anna Lee Strachan
Produced by: Michael Bicks and Anna Lee Strachan
© WGBH Educational Foundation 2019