CHICAGO --- Deep learning - a form of artificial intelligence - was able to detect malignant lung nodules on low-dose chest computed tomography (LDCT) scans with a performance meeting or exceeding that of expert radiologists, reports a new study from Google and Northwestern Medicine. This deep-learning system provides an automated image evaluation system to enhance the accuracy of early lung cancer diagnosis that could lead to earlier treatment. The deep-learning system was compared against radiologists on LDCTs for patients, some of whom had biopsy confirmed cancer within a year. In most comparisons, the model performed at or better than radiologists. Deep learning is a technique that teaches computers to learn by example.
The condition is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., and early detection is crucial for both stopping the spread of tumors and improving patient outcomes. As an alternative to chest X-rays, healthcare professionals have recently been using computed tomography (CT) scans to screen for lung cancer. In fact, some scientists argue that CT scans are superior to X-rays for lung cancer detection, and research has shown that low-dose CT (LDCT) in particular has reduced lung cancer deaths by 20%. These errors typically delay the diagnosis of lung cancer until the disease has reached an advanced stage when it becomes too difficult to treat. New research may safeguard against these errors.
Artificial intelligence is better than specialist doctors at diagnosing lung cancer, a US study suggests. The researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois and Google hope the technology could boost the effectiveness of cancer screening. Finding tumours at an earlier stage should make them easier to treat. The team said AI would have a "huge" role in the future of medicine, but the current software is not yet ready for clinical use. The study focused on lung cancer, which kills more people - 1.8 million a year - than any other type of cancer.
Google AI researchers working with Northwestern Medicine created an AI model capable of detecting lung cancer from screening tests better than human radiologists with an average of eight years experience. When analyzing a single CT scan, the model detected cancer 5% more often on average than a group of six human experts and was 11% more likely to reduce false positives. Humans and AI achieved similar results when radiologists were able to view prior CT scans. When it came to predicting the risk of cancer two years after a screening, the model was able to find cancer 9.5% more often compared to estimated radiologist performance laid out in the National Lung Screening Test (NLST) study. Detailed in research published today in Nature Medicine, the end-to-end deep learning model was used to predict whether a patient has lung cancer, generating a patient lung cancer malignancy risk score and identifying the location of the malignant tissue in the lungs.
One of lung cancer's most lethal attributes is its ability to trick radiologists. Some nodules appear threatening but turn out to be false positives. Others escape notice entirely, and then spiral without symptoms into metastatic disease. On Monday, however, Google unveiled an artificial intelligence system that -- in early testing -- demonstrated a remarkable talent for seeing through lung cancer's disguises. A study published in Nature Medicine reported that the algorithm, trained on 42,000 patient CT scans taken during a National Institutes of Health clinical trial, outperformed six radiologists in determining whether patients had cancer.