AI tool developed to study cancer-causing mutations | Daily Current Affairs 2021
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AI tool developed to study cancer-causing mutations

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Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool called NBDriver (neighbourhood driver) for use in analysing cancer-causing mutations in cells.

Key points:

  • IIT Madras researchers have developed an Artificial Intelligence-based Mathematical Model to identify cancer-causing alterations in cells.
  • This research was led by Prof. B. Ravindran, Head, RBCDSAI, and Mindtree Faculty Fellow IIT Madras and Dr Karthik Raman, Faculty Member, Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and AI (RBCDSAI), IIT Madras, and also the Coordinator, Centre for Integrative Biology and Systems Medicine (IBSE), IIT Madras.
  • Shayantan Banerjee, a Master’s Student at IIT Madras, performed the experiments and analysed the data.
  • The results have been recently published in the reputed peer-reviewed International Journal Cancers.

About NBDriver:

  • Using simple AI techniques, the researchers from this institute have developed a new prediction algorithm called NBDriver (NEIGHBOURHOOD Driver), and then tested its performance on various open-source datasets of cancers.
  • This AI algorithm studies the DNA structures and characterizes the genetic changes which are responsible for causing cancer.
  • By looking at the neighbourhood, or context, of a mutation in the genome, it can look at harmful “driver” mutations and distinguish them from neutral “passenger” mutations.


Driver Mutation: Cancer is caused by mutation or the growth of cells in the body. While cell mutation is a common phenomenon, only some mutations cause cancer. They are called driver mutations.

Passenger Mutation: Other mutations, which are a majority of all mutations, are benign and are called passengers.

  • This technique of looking at the genomic neighbourhood to make out the nature of the mutation is a novel and largely unexplored one.
  • This technique will tackle the complexity and size of DNA sequencing datasets and can greatly help in pinpointing key alternations in the genomes of cancer patients, which is difficult using present methodologies.


  • Cancer is caused due to the uncontrolled growth of cells driven mainly by genetic alterations.
  • In recent years, high-throughput DNA Sequencing has revolutionized the area of cancer research by enabling the measurement of these alterations.
  • However, due to the complexity and size of these sequencing datasets, pinpointing the exact changes from the genomes of cancer patients is notoriously difficult.
  • NBDriver uses a relatively unexplored technique of leveraging DNA composition to pinpoint genetic alterations responsible for cancer progression, which is difficult using present methodologies.
  • The model will help in identifying the most appropriate treatment strategy for a patient through an approach known as “precision oncology” and “tailoring treatments” not only to a specific illness but also to a person’s genetic make-up is challenging and requires extensive cataloguing of the ‘driver’ variants of interest.

About IIT-M:

  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT- M) is situated in Chennai.
  • It was founded in the year 1959 with financial and technical assistance from the former government of West Germany.
  • IIT-M was the third IIT to be established by the Government of India (GoI).

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