Computers improve prostate cancer detection at Calvary Mater Newcastle

Research: Medical physicist John Simpson, of the Calvary Mater Newcastle.
Research: Medical physicist John Simpson, of the Calvary Mater Newcastle.

AN artificial intelligence system that can discern the differences between healthy and cancer tissue in the prostate has been developed by a research team at the Calvary Mater Newcastle.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the system can identify more than 100 features within the MRI images that can differentiate cancer from healthy prostate tissue.

Calvary Mater Newcastle’s chief medical physicist, John Simpson, said many of these features were invisible to the human eye, and before now, would not be used in the decision-making process for prostate cancer treatment.

“Radiation oncology increasingly uses medical images to identify and target cancer for more accurate treatment,” Mr Simpson said.

“However, making the most of this imaging information is not straight forward, and this is where computers can help. Not only can a computer process a lot of information, but unlike a human being, the computer is not limited by the human eye and can extract and analyse information within an image that is invisible to you and I.”

Mr Simpson said the ultimate aim of the research, conducted by the radiation oncology and medical physics department, was to not only help improve cancer detection, but to identify cancer characteristics associated with treatment outcomes.

He hoped the information would lead to a more personalised treatment approach, where each patient would receive a prescription tailored to their individual characteristics.

The Newcastle Calvary Mater team was hoping to further improve the system with the use of additional scans, and then translate it to other types of cancers.

The research was made possible due to the generosity of Rodney Sorenson and the Tomaree Prostate Cancer Support Group.

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