Teen Builds Artificial Brain to Detect Breast Cancer
Like all other young Science winners before her, 17-year-old Brittany Wenger from Florida has won top prize in this year’s Google Science Fair, after building a cloud-based “artificial brain” that’s able to examine tissues for signs of breast cancer.
“I taught the computer how to diagnose breast cancer,” Wenger said. “And this is really important because currently the least invasive form of biopsy is actually the least conclusive, so a lot of doctors can’t use them.”
This minimally invasive procedure, called Fine Needle Aspirate, allows doctors to examine breast lumps for possible malignancy. Unfortunately, it’s not as commonly used…well, at least until now.
“Early detection is really important,” Wenger said. “And that is what I’m trying to do with my neural network.”
Wenger started building sophisticated neural networks after she learned about artificial intelligence in the seventh grade.
“I came across artificial intelligence and was just enthralled,” she recalled. “I went home the next day and bought a programming book and decided that was what I was going to teach myself to do.”
Seeing the rising rate of breast cancer among women, including members of her own family, Wenger decided to build a neural network to analyze breast tissue samples. Out of 7.6 million trials, 99.1 percent of the tests were sensitive to malignancy.
With a product that’s more accurate than any other on the market, the brilliant teen will be modifying the program to diagnose other types of cancer as well.
“It will require a little bit of coding and tweaking, but it would be very easy to adapt it so it could diagnose other types of cancer and potentially other medical problems,” she explained.
For now, she will settle with the top prize in the fair, along with $50,000 in scholarship money, an internship, and a 10-day paid vacation to the Galapagos Islands.