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Using artificial intelligence to combat breast cancer in Brazil

IDRC-supported research that aims to bring more equality to the use of artificial intelligence in health care, such as in the early-detection of breast cancer, has won an award for the best ongoing project at CONIC-SEMESP, Brazil’s largest scientific initiation congress.
A group of people accept the award for best ongoing project in the area of exact and earth sciences at CONIC-SEMESP, the largest scientific initiation conference in Brazil, in November 2023.
Rosemeiry Prado, Robson Bonidia, Wagner Cardozo and Donizeti Mello (director of the Faculdade de Tecnologia de Ourinhos, where ÁGUEDA operates) accept the award for best ongoing project at Brazil’s CONIC-SEMESP in November 2023.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death among women in Brazil, and early detection is key to curing it. Although artificial intelligence (AI) is currently being applied to this problem, it is still not accessible to most of the population.

The award-winning project, selected from 1,200 projects in the area of exact and earth sciences, is part of AutoAI-Pandemics, under the leadership of Professor André de Carvalho of the University of São Paulo. AutoAI-Pandemics serves as the hub of the Global South AI for Pandemic Preparedness and Response Network (AI4PEP) in Brazil. It seeks to provide wider access to AI for the analysis, study and control of epidemics and pandemics, enabling non-experts, such as biologists, physicians and epidemiologists, to utilize these tools effectively.

The project, called ÁGUEDA, is a collaboration between student Wagner Cardozo; Rosemeiry Prado, PhD; and Robson Bonidia, PhD and project supervisor. Cardozo is a student of an educational initiative called InteliGente, which, under the umbrella of AutoAI-Pandemics, aims to encourage students to work on AI solutions that can positively impact society.

ÁGUEDA aims to enhance the precision and speed of breast-cancer early detection through the analysis of a vast collection of mammography images to discern patterns suggestive of cancer. The strategy is designed to reduce diagnostic inaccuracies, facilitating more efficient treatment and boosting the patients’ chances of recovery. 

AI technologies are often restricted to the wealthiest countries in the world. ÁGUEDA, by bringing high-level technology to the Global South, has the potential to change people's lives. The project has been covered by more than 40 journalists. 

“Artificial Intelligence, AI, can save lives,” said Brazilian Senator Marcos Pontes, who is also a former minister of science, technology and innovation. “Is this application of AI in health care a great reason to speed up regulation? I’m sure it is.” 

Recognition from key authorities and the media further underscores the urgency and importance of integrating AI into health-care systems in the Global South.