Robotic scans that can spot bowel cancer are missing in humans
Robotic scans that can spot bowel cancer humans miss: Scientists hope integration of AI technology into existing colonoscopy equipment could save more lives
Artificial intelligence could be more effective than the human eye at spotting early gut signs Cancer.
A new UK trial is investigating whether adding artificial intelligence technology — which uses computer algorithms to scan and read images — to standard colonoscopy exams improves the accuracy of those scans.
Each year in the UK more than 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer and 16,000 die from it, making it the second most common cause of cancer death.
Colonoscopies are the ‘gold standard’ way of diagnosing diseases. Here, the colon is examined using a camera attached to a thin, flexible tube.
Artificial intelligence could be more effective than the human eye at spotting early signs of bowel cancer
The camera transmits live images from inside the bowel to a screen, allowing the clinician performing the procedure to check for precancerous polyps called adenomas — small growths that can be found on the bowel wall. Bowel cancer is believed to develop from these polyps and, if detected, can be removed during the procedure.
However, although colonoscopies are extremely effective, three in every 100 examinations miss a cancer or polyp which may be small, flat or hidden in the folds of the bowel, but which then becomes cancer, according to the NHS.
Scientists hope that integrating AI technology (which not only reads images but also learns on the fly) into existing colonoscopy equipment could help save more lives by increasing the accuracy of the 45-minute procedure, so that more cancers are caught at an early stage when they are is easier to treat.
To try to locate these hard-to-find abnormalities, US researchers have developed an AI box called GI Genius that connects to colonoscopy equipment and analyzes video footage in real time.
Colonoscopies are the ‘gold standard’ way of diagnosing diseases. Here, the colon is examined using a camera attached to a thin, flexible tube [File photo]
If it detects something unusual, the device creates a green box on the screen that indicates the precise part of the intestinal mucosa that needs to be examined in more detail and sounds a warning. The doctor performing the scan will then decide whether to investigate further.
The first UK trial of the AI device is halfway through screening around 2,000 NHS patients.
Patients included in the trial had already undergone a colonoscopy or experienced symptoms such as blood in the stool or significant changes in bowel habits, which they reported to their general practitioner; or have taken part in the NHS bowel screening program (a home test kit sent to adults aged 60-74 in England and over 50 in Scotland).
Half of those taking part in the trial will undergo a standard colonoscopy, and the other half with an AI device.
Nine hospitals across England are taking part in the Colo-Detect trial, mainly in the North East, and the study is being led by the University of Newcastle and South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.
The trial, funded by the US medical device company Medtronic, which designed the device, is due to end in April (researchers will assess both the clinical and cost-effectiveness of the technology).
The results of the first US trial of the device, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology last year, showed a 50 percent reduction in missed polyps when AI technology was used compared to a standard colonoscopy.
Commenting on the new trial, Dr Duncan Gilbert, Consultant Clinical Oncologist for Lower Gastrointestinal Cancers at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘Colorectal cancer remains a major public health challenge for the UK. Worryingly, it is also increasingly common in younger patients.
‘Colonoscopy screening to find and remove polyps and early cancers is proven to save lives and anything that improves the effectiveness of colonoscopy should be applauded.
‘Testing new technologies in properly conducted clinical trials like this is exactly what we need to do and is an example of how NHS clinical research is leading the world.’
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