Clever AI tool can help pick up prostate cancer quickly

When reading about new medical research projects, it seems that prostate ­cancer is receiving a lot of attention. As it should be.

I’ve felt for a long time it wasn’t getting enough, and this latest Oxford University research is focused on early diagnosis using the latest tool, ­artificial intelligence, to spot prostate cancer early.

This AI software is being tested now in patients at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) as part of the Articulate Pro study.

This two-year project is using AI to help doctors ­(pathologists) detect, grade and measure tumours in ­prostate biopsies with Paige Prostate, a computer-assisted diagnostic system.

Some 46,000 new prostate cancer cases are reported in the UK each year, which represents a 12% increase in the past decade, so the need is great.

OUH pathologists are using AI to help read prostate biopsy slides (microscopic specimens) as part of their routine work. The technology should flag up suspicious areas to pathologists immediately by ­identifying the classic hallmarks of cancer cells.

It also assesses the amount of tumour present and how aggressive it appears. This exciting project is being led by Clare Verrill, an OUH cellular pathology consultant and associate professor at the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, along with a ­multi-disciplinary team of doctors, including patient representatives.

Professor Verrill said: “One of our key aims is to diagnose cancers ­accurately earlier so treatment can be delivered more quickly and, ultimately, outcomes for patients improve.

“If we can harness this diagnostic technology to achieve this, it will be great news for patients.

“That’s why this evaluation – one of the first of its kind – is such an important step.

“We will be looking not only at how well this software performs in a busy clinical setting, and whether ­diagnostic accuracy and efficiency improves, but also assessing the ­experience of clinicians and patients, and looking at impact on workflow.”

Margaret Horton, vice president of clinical partnerships and evidence generation at Paige, said: “We look forward to completing our health economics study assessing the impacts of using AI in routine service.

“We are excited to be evaluating the potential health economic benefits of deploying the Paige Prostate Suite in a real-world clinical setting together with our advisers and partners at the York Health Economics Consortium.”

A promising collaboration.