Scientists at the University of Glasgow in Scotland have developed an artificial intelligence tool that could revolutionize the way doctors plan and monitor mesothelioma treatment.
The University team collaborated with Scottish firm Canon Medical Research Europe to develop an AI prototype for detecting pleural mesothelioma. Canon Medical specializes in medical imaging software.
Pleural mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. The new artificial intelligence tool is designed to find and measure mesothelioma tumors on CT scans.
It can be challenging even for cancer experts to detect tiny changes in mesothelioma tumors. But the AI tool can quickly reveal how well or poorly a patient is doing on a treatment like chemotherapy. The sooner doctors know if they need to change tactics, the better the patient’s outcome is likely to be.
‘Teaching’ the Artificial Intelligence Tool
Malignant pleural mesothelioma is a rare and hard-to-treat cancer that grows on the surface of the lungs. Unlike some tumors that are round and easy to see on imaging scans, mesothelioma tumors are flat and irregularly shaped.
Their unique growth pattern makes these tumors difficult to detect. It also makes it hard for doctors to spot changes in mesothelioma tumors over time. The artificial intelligence tool was designed to make the process easier, faster, and more accurate.
For the assessment tool to work, it had to be ‘trained’ by expert clinicians. Researchers showed the artificial intelligence tool 100 CT scans from people with pleural mesothelioma. The scans had the tumors marked so that the computer could ‘learn’ exactly what to look for.
Researchers then tested the tool to see how well it could do the job without help. When they showed the AI a new set of CT scans, it was able to find and measure the mesothelioma tumors with great precision.
Computer Assessment and the Future of Mesothelioma Treatment
The artificial intelligence tool developed in Scotland could have far-reaching implications. If larger studies confirm that it works well, it could become a routine part of mesothelioma management. By giving doctors a fast, accurate assessment of changes in tumor volume, it could let them know earlier if they are on the right track.
But the tool could also have an impact on mesothelioma clinical trials. Clinical trials test potentially life-saving cancer treatments in human patients. They may involve large numbers of patients, all of whom have CT scans that have to be analyzed.
“Accurate tumour volume measurements are much too time-consuming to perform by hand,” explains Keith Goatman, Principal Scientist at Canon Medical. “Automating these measurements will open the way for clinical trials of new treatments, by detecting even small changes in the tumour size.”
Goatman says the artificial intelligence tool is a “strong first step” towards changes in the treatment of mesothelioma and other types of cancer.
At present, there is no cure for mesothelioma. Many patients die of the disease within a year of diagnosis. Scotland has one of the highest incidences of mesothelioma in the world.
“Artificial Intelligence Used to Automate Assessment of Mesothelioma”, University of Glasgow News Release, https://www.gla.ac.uk/news/archiveofnews/2021/april/headline_788451_en.html