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Sam Altman’s OpenAI Partners Push Boundaries on AI in Cancer Healthcare


Sam Altman’s new partner in healthcare is developing artificial intelligence tools that it says could save lives in the fight against cancer.

Altman’s OpenAI, the company which produces ChatGPT, partnered with Color Health to build out new tools that speed up cancer treatment and support both patients and professionals in the screening process. Altman has highlighted healthcare as one of the industries in which AI could make big differences, to the point where it could one day be used to find cures for cancer.

Color Health’s technology speeds up treatment by processing patient information, then quickly answering questions about the kind of treatment they should have, while also generating documentation and screening plans. These results are then checked by a profession clinician to ensure it is accurate, which Color Health describes as a “human-in-the-loop” model.

A scientist working with specimen samples in a lab. AI tools developed by OpenAI and Color Health are finding ways to improve the administration of healthcare.

dusanpetkovic/Getty

Othman Laraki, a former board member of the American Cancer Society, started Color Health in 2013. The healthcare service provider, which specializes in managing cancer risk, partnered with OpenAI in June 2024 to build out a “copilot” tool based on GPT-4o.

Laraki told Newsweek: “There’s a lot of things we know about cancer in theory that we generally fail to apply in practice. When you look at the last ten or 20 years of cancer revolution, the cost of treating cancer has gone up by over ten times.

“We spent a lot of money and effort on very advanced therapeutics that extend life a little bit, but in most late-stage cases, cancers are about as deadly today as they were a few decades ago. The place where the most progress has happened is for early-stage cancers.”

Laraki highlighted administrative burden as one of the key areas in which AI could play a major role in improving healthcare, especially for an area which requires a higher level of expertise, like cancer treatment.

“A lot of the more common applications have been around alleviating the administrative burden of healthcare,” he said. “With OpenAI, we went to the other end of the spectrum, which is that there are places in healthcare where the scarcity of expert knowledge is very costly, especially with cancer.”

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June, Altman highlighted the partnership with Color Health as an example of AI reaching a new threshold of capabilities, saying: “One of our partners, Color Health, is using GPT4 for cancer screening and treatment plans, and that’s great. And maybe a future version of GPT will help discover cures for cancer.”

Laraki was similarly optimistic about AI’s future in healthcare, telling Newsweek: “I think there’s a few very deep ways in which machine learning can have a very big impact in healthcare broadly. On one side, there’s drug discovery. One place where I think there’s still a pretty big unlock to happen is in the quality and equity of clinical trials. Today, one of the most costly aspects of drug development is the testing against human subjects.”

He compared the future role of AI in drug trials to modern developments in car testing, where advanced physics simulations have replaced crash testing.

“It used to be that if you make a car, the only way to know what’s going to happen when it hits is to run it at 50 miles an hour against the wall. But now, there are these amazing physics simulation companies that allow you to do 95% of the simulation of crashes in software. I think similarly things can happen on the therapeutic side.”

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