Persistent Systems and non-government organisation Prashanti Cancer Care Mission (PCCM) have tied up to develop a method for the early detection of a cancer variant that often impacts young women.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) means that the three most common types of receptors, proteins that nudge most of the breast cancer growth, are not present in TNBC tumours.
This, says the Foundation, makes TNBC more difficult to treat as common treatments like hormone therapy and drugs, which target the cancer cells with these three receptors, are ineffective.
Persistent Systems has helped develop a platform that identifies some new markers found in TNBC patients by using artificial intelligence and machine learning. It stepped in to answer the question of how technology can help prevent and diagnose TNBC at an earlier stage.
"We have a software lab setup where we're working with many kinds of biological institutions and government groups and research labs and other people. We have a team of people who have PhDs in genomics...along with computer science PhDs and people who have an inclination towards doing this kind of work," said Anand Deshpande, founder and CEO of Persistent Systems.
As part of the project, Persistent identified a few markers for TNBC in addition to what were already known. Oncologists will then put these findings together, and design clinical trials, Deshpande added.
As a part of the findings will be shared with the larger medicine community, drug repurposing could also be possible.
"Drug repurposing essentially means (working with) drugs that are already FDA (US Food and Administration) approved. Suppose one drug is being used for colon cancer but the same drug can be used for breast cancer as well," explained Anamika Krishanpal, senior domain specialist and multi-omics group leader at Persistent Systems.
She said that while the problem is complex, it is also exciting.
"Biological data is complex, but this is interesting because the solution you are bringing is through informatics. We are at the interface of biology and informatics," she added.
Persistent has been working with people from different fields where large amounts of data have to be handled. The company depended on data from PCCM, and some anonymised data from a "cancer atlas" available for research purposes.
The IT firms have worked with professor LS Shashidhara, a developmental biologist, geneticist and a professor and chair of Biology at Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune.
Persistent has, in the past, collaborated with institutes such as Virginia Tech, Johns Hopkins Center for Clinical Global Health Education and Mount Sinai hospital.