Teen Brittany Wenger Develops Computer Program Able to Diagnose Leukemia

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A high schooler from Florida has come up with a leukemia computer algorithm that is able to help doctors diagnose patients with the disease.

Brittany Wenger, 18, won Google's Science Fair last year when she developed an iPhone app that helps doctors diagnose breast cancer. She used a similar method to create her leukemia algorithm.

By creating an "artificial neural network" that mimics the human brain, Wenger was able to come up with a cloud-based computer program able to find patterns in patient's genetic expression to diagnose mixed-lineage leukemia, an aggressive form of the cancer. 

She said the program "can actually learn to detect things that transcend human knowledge."

The five-year survival rate for this type of leukemia is at 40 percent, but Wenger hopes her algorithm can help doctors diagnose it earlier and develop new treatments. 

"Different types of cancer have different molecular fingerprints," Wenger said, after she found four particular gene expressions in the body that can be targeted to create mixed-lineage leukemia-specific drugs. 

The program she created last year to diagnose breast cancer is able to correctly identify 99 percent of malignant breast tumors. 

"The most amazing part about science is you can answer questions and really revolutionize the world and our knowledge base," she said.

Her interest in artificial intelligence began in seventh grade, but soon grew when her cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer three years later. 

Once she won the grand prize for her breast cancer diagnosis program, she was determined to prove her infrastructure could work for multiple diseases.

Now, she is getting recognition for her leukemia work, and she won $3,000 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. She also won Go Daddy's $1,500 Data Award, Google's CS Connect $10,000 award and a $500 award from the IEEE Computer Society.

Sources: Daily Mail, Mashable