“Digital twins” are coming to cancer research
Illustration: Mary Delaney
“Digital twin” technology has broken so much ground in manufacturing and medicine that the scientific community is eagerly awaiting its arrival in oncology.
A digital twin is a precise virtual model of any physical thing, from an engine to an aircraft to a person with cancer.
Why you should know: Leidos Biomedical Research is part of a team developing cancer patient digital twins designed to simulate their human counterparts and reveal their likely reaction to different drugs and drug combinations.
These simulations will use artificial intelligence (AI) and data based not only on the patient’s own physiology, but also on a breadth of real-world data from other similar patients.
New research published in Nature Medicine describes how it might work.
From the source: “If you look at the aerospace industry, for example, they’re using digital twins extensively to simulate fluid dynamics and materials processing to improve engine and aircraft designs,” said Dr. Eric Stahlberg, a Leidos scientist and co-author of the paper. “There are many similarities between those models and newer models that simulate the human cardiovascular and circulatory systems.”
“As we move digital twins into the complex molecular biology space, we’re looking to take the extensive research we’ve done on tumors, molecular interactions and clinical responses, and bring it all together to build a coherent model that’s translatable and repeatable all the way to the patient.”
“The complexity of the human body is so substantial that there will always be uncertainty in the models. But ultimately, digital twins will inform patients, help them rank various treatment options and increase their chances of survival.”
Looking ahead: Stahlberg said that while cancer patient digital twins are in the early stages, leaders from the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. Department of Energy, Leidos Biomedical Research and government laboratories are working with academia and industry to execute a plan over the next ten years.
The digital twin market is projected to grow from $7 billion in 2020 to $46 billion by 2026, driven by demand in healthcare and pharmacology.
Forbes called digital twins one of the five biggest healthcare tech trends of 2022.
Please contact the Leidos media relations team for more.