RSNA2022 Empowering Patients and Partners in Care
Daily Bulletin

A Vision for the Future of Cancer Care

Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022

By Richard Dargan

Collaboration between different medical specialties and appropriate use of new tools like AI will drive progress in the fight against cancer, a celebrated oncologist and best-selling author told the audience in Arie Crown Theater Monday.

In an almost hour-long address, Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, offered the large crowd a vision for the future of cancer care.

He echoed the thoughts of leading experts when he suggested that AI is best viewed not as a threat to radiology but a useful adjunct. Referencing the number of AI-derived cancer detection products in the exhibition hall upstairs, he shared research on AI’s ability to improve breast cancer detection. Quality data is central to developing these algorithms, Dr. Mukherjee said, something that radiologists have helped provide.

“I want to particularly congratulate the radiology community for open sourcing hundreds of thousands of images so that they can be processed by the community at large,” he said. “You’ve set the way and you’ve done a real service to the entire community of physicians.”

As reflected in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Dr. Mukherjee has spent much of his career studying a disease that continues to kill millions worldwide every year. He expressed cautious optimism over recent developments that are driving a better understanding of the disease.

For instance, a tumor’s micro-environment is increasingly understood to be vital to its growth. The Cancer in a Dish project replicates this environment, allowing researchers to easily test different drugs on a 3D multicellular cancer—an approach that gives a more comprehensive picture than one provided by the cancer’s genome.

“We do genetic analysis for that particular cancer, but more than that we integrate that information with the individual patient’s cancer and its sensitivities,” Dr. Mukherjee said.

A Different Model of Care

Summing up his talk, Dr. Mukherjee stressed the importance of clinical trials performed with correct endpoints.

“If we cheat now and perform clinical trials with the wrong endpoints, we will pay later, not only in terms of the costs but really in terms of interventions on patients,” he said.

In an informal question-and-answer session following the address, RSNA President Bruce G. Haffty, MD, asked Dr. Mukherjee what role the patient will play in the future of cancer care. In response, Dr. Mukherjee described the transformative power of bringing patients into the decision-making process. As an example, he described how discussions of concepts like risk models and false positive rates with prostate cancer patients assuages a patient’s fear and suspicion.

“The only way forward is to have a ‘with patient’ as opposed to a ‘for patient’ model of care,” he said.

Radiology’s prominent role in the continuum of cancer care was never far from the discussion. Dr. Mukherjee said he intends to devote a chapter to risk assessment and diagnostic radiology in an updated version of the The Emperor of All Maladies, due for publication next year.

“Treatment is the tip of the triangle and prevention is the base,” he said. “The people here,” he said, gesturing to the crowd, “occupy the center.”

Access the plenary session, "Three Visions for the Future of Medicine," (M4-PL02) on demand at