AWS Public Sector Blog

Tech Day of Pink: How the cloud is powering the fight against breast cancer

Tech Day of Pink

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. This year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its employees are participating in the Tech Day of Pink on October 8, joining the Estée Lauder Companies’ (ELC) annual campaign to raise awareness and donations for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. For every public, in-feed Instagram or Facebook post during the month of October that features both the hashtags #TimeToEndBreastCancer and #ELCdonates together, Estée Lauder Companies will donate $25 USD to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, up to $100,000.

“At Amazon we are customer obsessed. We think big, and we stand alongside our customers to help solve big issues. This includes supporting organizations that make a difference, and efforts like Tech Day of Pink,” said Rachel Thornton, vice president, marketing at AWS. “We are excited and inspired by our partners and the innovative work they are doing using AWS to support the ongoing fight against this disease.”

AWS powers nonprofits fighting breast cancer

Several nonprofits devoted to the fight against breast cancer use the AWS Cloud to help meet their missions. and Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance (PHDA) are using AWS to better inform patient decision-making and predict short-term risk of developing breast cancer., a 2019 Imagine Grant winner, is building a digital solution to better inform patient decision-making based off hard to understand pathology reports. This solution will help clarify the report for patients and give them the essential healthcare resources they need.

“The process of applying for the Imagine Grant helped our teams think about our solution to meet the needs of breast cancer patients in a new way, and ultimately emerge with clearer thinking,” said Hope Wohl, chief executive officer, “Thanks to the resources and support provided by AWS, we have had early success in developing a minimum viable product of a recommendation tool that leverages AWS machine learning technology to help people affected by breast cancer find credible information to make important choices for their health based on their unique cancer situation.”

Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance-supported researcher Shandong Wu, recipient of the Amazon Research Awards, is studying breast cancer risk, identifying depression markers, and understanding what drives tumor growth, among other projects. Through the AWS and PHDA collaboration, researchers at three institutions—the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)—are better understanding and treating the diseases.

The research team led by Shandong Wu, an assistant professor in the University of Pittsburgh Department of Biomedical Informatics, is using deep-learning systems to analyze mammograms in order to predict the short‐term risk of developing breast cancer.

Wu and his colleagues collected de-identified normal screening mammogram images from patients, half of whom later developed breast cancer and half of whom did not. Using AWS tools, such as Amazon SageMaker, they used two different machine learning models to analyze the images for characteristics that could help predict breast cancer risk.

“This preliminary work demonstrates the feasibility and promise of applying deep-learning methodologies for in-depth interpretation of mammogram images to enhance breast cancer risk assessment,” said Dr. Wu. “Identifying additional risk factors for breast cancer, including those that can lead to a more personalized approach to screening, may help patients and providers take more appropriate preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of developing the disease or catching it early on when interventions are most effective.“

Moving forward, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC will pursue studies with more training samples and longitudinal imaging data to further evaluate the models. They also plan to combine deep learning with known clinical risk factors to improve upon the ability to diagnose and treat breast cancer earlier.

Learn more about Tech Day of Pink from AWS customer Estée Lauder Companies, including the hackathon AWS is involved with this year. And learn more about the cloud for nonprofits and healthcare.

Holly Carver

Holly Carver

Holly Carver is a strategic program manager, nonprofit and healthcare marketing, at Amazon Web Services (AWS). She supports key team priorities by creating content and process development for overall program success. Holly is based in San Francisco, California.