Business / Companies

Baidu's Li supports efforts to find cure for esophageal cancer

By Meng Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-05 14:26

Big data technology and artificial intelligence are being combined to help find a cure for an aggressive form of cancer, thanks to funding from Robin Li, the co-founder of China's online search giant Baidu Inc.

The Beijing-based firm said Li is donating up to 30 million yuan ($4.72 million) to support a research to identify the gene which causes cancer of the esophagus-the food pipe that runs between the throat and the stomach.

Baidu and Peking Union Medical College will use the donation to launch joint research into the condition.

Liu Zhihua, deputy director of the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Oncology at PUMC, said that esophageal cancer is the sixth-biggest killer worldwide, and 53.8 percent of global deaths from this particular form of cancer occur in China.

Nearly all of the Chinese patients, however, suffer specifically from what is called esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, or ESCC, while in the West patients suffer more from esophageal adenocarcinoma, meaning existing Western studies into the condition offer little reference to China.

"There are limited clinical approaches for early diagnosis and treatment of ESCC, resulting in just a 10 percent, five-year survival rate for Chinese esophageal cancer patients.

"Therefore, there is an urgent need to provide a new insight into the understanding of the disease, which would help clinicians develop more effective diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for ESCC in China," said Liu.

Shen Zhiyong, head of Baidu's big data lab, said the likely process will generate a huge amount of data, and "the storage and analysis of the data will require strong capability in computing".

The cooperation will fully leverage Peking Union Medical College's medical specialty and Baidu's big data technology and artificial intelligence capability, said Shen.

The results of the study are expected to deepen the understanding of genetic screening of esophageal cancer, and subsequently help identify better treatment of the disease, he said.

At the start of this year, Baidu also teamed up with Beijing's Chinese PLA General Hospital to co-develop a mobile-based platform called Baidu Doctor, which uses the company's location-based technology, search skills and artificial intelligence to help the patients source doctors.

"About 90 percent of the world's data has been generated in the past two years," said Robin Li.

"Big data has gradually started showing its value. It is likely to focus in future on issues that affect people's livelihoods, such as this cancer, and find better ways of managing society," he said.

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