AI to transform diseases like cancer, prime minister says

Theresa May spoke about the potentials of AI within healthcare yesterday, in a speech that outlined four objectives of the Industrial Strategy.

The prime minister set out four ‘Grand Challenges’, naming AI and data as technologies that could “transform the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementia by 2030,” May said.

May referenced smart technologies for analysing data quickly and accurately, stating that they open “up a whole new field of medical research and gives us a new weapon in our armoury in the fight against disease,” she said.

The government’s ambition is to speed up the diagnosis of cancer, potentially saving lives and incubating a “whole new industry around AI-in-healthcare,” May said.

The prime minister stated that within 15 years, the government hopes to be able to “diagnose at a much earlier stage the lung, bowel, prostate or ovarian cancer of at least 50,000 more people a year”.

The early diagnosis of these cancers will translate to 22,000 fewer people dying within five years of their diagnosis compared to current rates.

More so, the government hopes that that the technologies can be used in other diseases besides cancer.

“We will work with industry and the medical research community to announce specific ambitions in a range of other disease areas over the coming weeks and months.

“It will incubate a whole new industry around AI-in-healthcare, creating high-skilled science jobs across the country, drawing on existing centres of excellence in places like Edinburgh, Oxford and Leeds – and helping to grow new ones.” May said.

During the speech, May outlined the government’s support for the UK’s science and technology industries, referencing £7 billion in new public funding for science, research and innovation, alongside a goal of 2.4% investment of GDP by 2027 for research and development.

Those targets could “translate to an additional £80 billion investment in the ideas of the future over the next decade.” May said,

The prime minister also used the speech to highlight the importance of healthy ageing. May stated that the government “will ensure that people can enjoy five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, whilst narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest.”

May referenced the use of smart technologies to “help people continue to enjoy life if they have a health condition”.


Reece Armstrong is a reporter for Digital Health Age. Coming from the North East of England, Reece has an MA in Media & Journalism and a BA in Popular & Contemporary Music from Newcastle University. Reach him on Twitter or email via:

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