UK Hospitals to Deploy AI to Speed Prostate Cancer Diagnoses

National Health Service will provide $194 million to use artificial intelligence to analyze cancer specimens

SEEKING TO SPEED UP THE PRODUCTION OF TEST RESULTS for men suspected of having prostate cancer, six hospitals in the United Kingdom (UK) will get funding to determine if artificial intelligence (AI) can diagnose prostate cancer quicker and more accurately than pathologists. 

Anatomic pathologists in the United States will want to watch the progress of this innovative program. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) hopes to demonstrate that AI-powered digital image analysis tools can make a primary diagnosis of prostate cancer with accuracy that is comparable to human pathologists.

In the largest multi-site deployment of AI in the UK, six hospitals in the NHS will get £140 million (US$194 million) to use AI technology to detect prostate cancer automatically and accurately from images of biopsied prostate specimens, according to published reports. 

Detect and Grade Cancer

At the six participating hospitals, AI will be used to examine prostate specimens from 600 men over 14 months, according to National Health Executive. In the study, researchers will evaluate how well AI can be used to detect and grade prostate cancer. 

Data published by the NHS shows that more than 25% of cancer patients wait longer than the target 62 days from a “GP [general practice] urgent referral to a first treatment for cancer.” This use of AI for prostate cancer is part of an effort in the UK to counteract a severe shortage of histopathologists. Matthew Gould, CEO of NHSX, told The Daily Mail, “We are currently caught between having too few pathologists and rising demand for biopsies. This technology could help give thousands of men with prostate cancer faster, more accurate diagnoses.”

’Busting the Backlog’

Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed this assessment when he said, “Cancer diagnosis and treatment has remained a top priority throughout the pandemic, and I am committed to busting the backlog in cancer care,” according to National Health Executive.

In the study, clinicians will use an AI algorithm called Galen Prostate from Ibex Medical Analytics, an Israeli company, The Daily Mail reported. The system is 98% effective at detecting prostate cancer, according to research published last year in The Lancet. 

In the UK, some 100,000 men undergo prostate biopsies each year and 40,000 are diagnosed with prostate cancer, The Daily Mail added. Those cases of cancer lead to about 12,000 deaths annually.

The hospitals involved in the study are Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, University College London, University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS FT (both Chelsea and West Middlesex sites), and University Hospital Southampton NHS FT. 



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