A 20-year-old from Bradenton has designed a revolutionary diagnostic program.
Bradenton’s Brittany Wenger has been interested in computer science and artificial intelligence since the seventh grade. But it was at age 15, as a student at Out-of-Door Academy, that Wenger found a greater purpose for her passion. That year, Wenger’s cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Wenger turned her focus to battling that disease.
“I come from a tight-knit family,” says Wenger, now 20, who grew up in Lakewood Ranch and currently attends Duke University. “I could see how much that disease affects everyone.”
The result of her efforts? Cloud4Cancer, an interactive, online diagnostic tool that not only diagnoses breast cancer with 99.11 percent accuracy, but also learns as it goes, so that the more it’s used, the more accurate it gets.
From the doctor’s perspective, Cloud4Cancer is a simple website (cloud4cancer.appspot.com) with nine fields representing various characteristics of a mass. After the doctor performs a fine-needle aspirate of the mass and enters the information in all the fields, Cloud4Cancer determines if the mass is malignant or benign.
But it’s what happens behind that simple website that makes Cloud4Cancer so amazing. Wenger designed the program to operate like a human brain. After it’s entered, the information is converted to binary—a system of ones and zeroes—just as “the neurons in the brain are either firing or not firing,” says Wenger. Artificial neural networks evaluate the information, come to a conclusion and then incorporate additional information to improve the program’s predictive abilities. It’s all hosted on a Google-powered “cloud,” so it has all the memory it needs to serve doctors around the world. And the more it’s used, the more effective it becomes.
In addition to breast cancer, Cloud4Cancer has shown promise in diagnosing leukemia, too. Wenger hopes to expand the program’s abilities to all types of cancer.
Cloud4Cancer has already been awarded the grand prize from the Google Science Fair, and this December, Wenger was honored as one of 10 Women of Worth from L’Oreal Paris. “It’s mind-boggling to be put on a list of so many women doing incredible things,” she says. Wenger plans to use the $10,000 award to consult with people who can make the user interface more convenient. “If we want doctors to use it, it needs to be really convenient,” she says.
As for marketing her technology, Wenger hasn’t put much thought into its commercial value. “I’m a scientist by nature,” she says.
New Year, New You
Sarasota life coach and counselor Jamie Molnar shares 10 ways to make the most of our 2015 resolutions.
Keep it simple. Avoid exercise fads and stick to easy activities like walking the Ringling Bridge or Siesta Beach.
Limit the number of resolutions. The New Year brings excitement and the desire for change, but be careful not to take too much on at once. Limit yourself to about five clearly defined goals that are measurable and attainable.
Change your perspective. Instead of thinking of the resolution as a chore or a stress, think of it as a devotion to yourself, a way of nurturing and healing your mind, body and soul.
Be realistic. If you normally wake up at 6 a.m., don’t schedule your workout for 5 a.m. If you want to become more involved in the Sarasota community, pick just one or two groups to start with to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Manage your time. Create a calendar to include new activities, stock certain food ingredients that you know you will be using regularly if you are changing your diet, and use lists every day to stay organized.
Be consistent. It actually takes an average of 66 days to establish a new habit, so keep that in mind if you start losing momentum.
Remember that change is not easy. When times get hard, remind yourself of how strong you have been so far and think about why you chose to make this change in the first place.
Find an accountability partner. Activities are more fun with a friend. Find someone who wants to achieve the same goals as you and provide support and encouragement to each other.
Stay flexible. Hey, life happens—no use getting frustrated or upset. One of the best predictors of your success will be your ability to adapt to any changes that come your way.
Have fun! Sarasota is a beautiful city, so enjoy yourself and everything the city has to offer.