Edinburgh-based Canon Medical Research Europe has been awarded £140,000 to develop a prototype AI-powered cancer assessment project. Working with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the Phase II funding project was awarded by the Cancer Innovation Challenge.
The prototype, Canon Medical says, could revolutionise the fight against cancer through a combination of AI and medical imaging technology that enables healthcare workers to improve the assessment process for one of the most difficult cancers to manage; Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (MPM).
Taking on Cancer
The Cancer Innovation Challenge aims to develop data and tech-based innovations to help Scotland forge a reputation as a world leader in cancer care. Funded by the Scottish Government through the Scottish Funding Council, the initiative is being delivered by three Scottish innovation centres and is led by The Data Lab.
Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab, said: “We were extremely impressed with Canon Medical’s innovative concept and obvious commitment to best practice in data science, clinical input, and AI development for improving patient care and outcomes. We believe this research will go a long way to advancing medical technology and precision in Scotland, and across the world.”
This Phase II funding focuses specifically on identifying key areas in which cancer treatment and outcomes can be improved through data science. Working in collaboration with Dr Kevin Blyth, a renowned mesothelioma physician and researcher, Canon Medical’s primary goal will be to showcase the advantages of AI both in the treatment of this specific cancer, and the disease as a whole.
If successful, the company says it hopes to begin development on a tool that will carry out a number of tasks, including; Recognising, assessing and measuring cancerous tumours, and; Contributing to a growing body of evidence of how AI can help medical advancement.
Mesothelioma is type of tumour which is difficult to treat. Commonly known as ‘asbestos cancer’, Scotland has one of the highest incidence rates of mesothelioma in the world.
For healthcare professionals, identifying and tackling this type of cancer is a much more time-consuming and error-prone process than for other cancers. Without reliable measurement, it is extremely difficult to gauge how well a treatment is working or to choose the most effective treatment for each patient.
Dr Blyth said: “MPM is an exceptionally challenging cancer to start with, but the possibilities are enormous using Canon Medical’s technology our clinical and research input.
“While it is an ambitious project we are positive that whatever we learn will be valuable for advancing medical knowledge and taking us towards a world in which treatments are increasingly tailored, affordable, and successful.”
Canon Medical’s project will aim to develop AI technology that “rapidly and accurately” measures the size of a tumour, forming a potentially crucial component of a precision medicine system for treating patients.
The project team also says it hoped than an AI-based assessment tool will have a positive impact on the cost of cancer drugs long-term. The efficiency of clinical trials could improve through the use of AI tools that determine whether new drugs are having a useful effect.
Current Treatment Limitations
Currently, cancer tumour assessment is predominately performed using the RECIST technique; Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours. This process involves manually measuring changes in the size of tumours on Computed Tomography (CT) or MRI scans – a method which is time-consuming, expensive and often requires multiple assessments by different human professionals.
By automating the RECIST process through AI and machine learning, the speed and accuracy of these methods could be greatly improved. Doctors would then be able to assess and treat cancer with greater precision
Dr Ken Sutherland, Company President of Canon Medical Research Europe, says that the deployment of AI could herald a major breakthrough in fighting MPM and other cancers.
He said: “Canon Medical is fully focused on improving the lives of patients and providing the latest and most advanced clinical decision support tools to clinicians. We are actively tackling those areas where our technology and know-how can make a significant impact on people’s lives.
“MPM is a terrible condition for those that are unfortunate enough to suffer from it, and we believe that an automated assessment method using AI would be a major advance in fighting this disease and, potentially, other forms of lung cancer. The funding from CIC is critical to developing this ground-breaking tool.”