Researchers utilise AI to improve bowel cancer screening

General view of the University of Glasgow where whistleblower Edward Snowden has agreed to stand as a candidate for rector.
General view of the University of Glasgow where whistleblower Edward Snowden has agreed to stand as a candidate for rector.

A university is to collaborate with the NHS and Scottish technology companies to use artificial intelligence (AI) to determine which patients need bowel cancer screenings.

The £3.4 million project dubbed INCISE – INtegrated TeChnologies for Improved Polyp SurveillancE – will help University of Glasgow academics predict which patients will develop future tumours and pre-cancerous lesions, or polyps.

It has been suggested the current guidelines for clinicians are not accurate, meaning many people undergo unnecessary and invasive procedures while only one in 20 people in Scotland are found to have cancer at a colonoscopy.

The new precision tool will identify patients who would benefit the most from a colonoscopy so they are seen earlier, and any cancer can be treated sooner.

Researchers will combine data from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Scottish Bowel Cancer Screening Programme with new analysis of the genetic mutations that causes polyps to grow.

Professor Joanne Edwards, of Translational Cancer Pathology at the university’s Institute of Cancer Sciences, welcomed funding from the UK Government for the project.

She said: “We are thrilled to receive this support and funding from Innovate UK, which will help us develop a programme that will hugely benefit both patients and our NHS.

“The University of Glasgow has wide experience in all aspects of colon cancer.

“By combining our knowledge with industry partners and the NHS, we can harness the power of artificial intelligence to assess which patients are prone to polyps and need further colonoscopies.

“By better predicting the needs of individuals, we can help patients avoid procedures that do not benefit them, while reducing the burden and cost to the NHS.”

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