The artificial intelligence offshoot of Google has paired up with University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for a research project. DeepMind Health announced that it will be receiving anonymised data from the trust for a research partnership into head and neck cancer. The five-year collaboration will use around 700 anonymised CT and MRI scans of former patients, dating back to 2008, and additional data relating to approximate age, anatomy location, cancer type and radiotherapy received. Currently before radiotherapy can be administered, clinicians take up to four hours to identify and differentiate between cancerous and healthy tissues on CT and MRI scans of head and neck cancer patients. This process is called segmentation.
We're excited to announce a new research partnership with the Radiotherapy Department at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which provides world-leading cancer treatment. Head and neck cancer in general affects over 11,000 patients in the UK alone each year. Advances in treatment such as radiotherapy have improved survival rates, but because of the high number of delicate structures concentrated in this area of the body, clinicians have to plan treatment extremely carefully to ensure none of the vital nerves or organs are damaged. That makes a cancer at the back of the mouth or in the sinuses, for example, particularly hard to treat with radiotherapy. The process, known as segmentation, involves drawing around different parts of the anatomy and feeding the information through to a radiotherapy machine, which can then target cancers while leaving healthy tissue unharmed.
Google's DeepMind is aiming to help cut the time spent identifying key areas to treat, and avoid, in radiotherapy. Google's DeepMind is partnering with the UK's NHS to explore how machine learning could help doctors treat head and neck cancers. DeepMind, the Google subsidiary that beat a human contestant in the notoriously complex game of Go and is helping cut Google's datacenter costs, will be conducting cancer treatment research at the Radiotherapy Department at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust. While privacy and regulation will slow the pace of adoption, AI will bring some profound changes to healthcare. As the AI-research unit notes in a blog post, radiotherapy involving sensitive parts of the body, such as the mouth and sinuses, requires careful planning prior to treatment to avoid damaging key nerves and organs.
Early results from our partnership with the Radiotherapy Department at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust suggest that we are well on our way to developing an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can analyse and segment medical scans of head and neck cancer to a similar standard as expert clinicians. This segmentation process is an essential but time-consuming step when planning radiotherapy treatment. The findings also show that our system can complete this process in a fraction of the time. More than half a million people are diagnosed each year with cancers of the head and neck worldwide. Radiotherapy is a key part of treatment, but clinical staff have to plan meticulously so that healthy tissue doesn't get damaged by radiation: a process which involves radiographers, oncologists and/or dosimetrists manually outlining the areas of anatomy that need radiotherapy, and those areas that should be avoided.
Breast cancer patients are set to benefit for the first time from a high-tech bra which preserves their dignity during radiotherapy. A nylon garment developed by scientists in Sheffield uses inflatable sections to gently position the affected breast - improving the accuracy of the procedure. More than 38,000 women undergo radiotherapy for breast cancer in England each year, according to the Royal College of Radiologists. The procedure, which involves repeated sessions every day for three or four weeks, currently requires women to strip down to the waist. This is because the metal in most bras interferes with the radiation beam, and those without underwiring or metal clips are also discouraged, because even the fabric can absorb radiation, reducing the potency of the treatment.