Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge is set to become the first to use a new AI tool in treating cancer patients.
It is planning to begin using the tool from Project InnerEye, developed at Microsoft’s Cambridge research lab, to highlight tumours and healthy organs on patient scans.
The results will be checked by a clinical oncologist before treatment, but the technology is expected to shorten the lengthy treatment planning stage.
Traditionally the process involves a 3D CT (computed tomography) imaging scan which produces stacks of 2D images, dozens deep, each of which have to be examined and marked up manually – which can take several hours.
By contrast, InnerEye uses AI models and is said to carry out the contouring process 13 times more quickly and to provide high levels of accuracy.
Yvonne Rimmer (pictured), consultant clinical oncologist at Addenbrooke’s, said: “There is no doubt that InnerEye is saving me time. It’s very good at understanding where the prostate gland is and healthy organs surrounding it, such as the bladder. It’s speeding up the process so I can concentrate on looking at a patient’s diagnostic images and tailoring treatment to them.
“But it’s important for patients to know that the AI is helping me in my professional role; it’s not replacing me in the process. I double check everything the AI does and can change it if I need to. The key thing is that most of the time, I don’t need to change anything.”
Microsoft has made the toolkit for InnerEye available as open source software. Models trained with the software will be hosted on the Azure cloud, with all data held securely in the UK.
The project has won the support of Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who said: “Helping people receive treatment faster is incredibly important and will not only improve recovery rates but will save clinicians precious time so they can focus on caring for patients.
“Embracing new technologies will help save lives and is vital for the sustainability of the NHS, and our NHS Long Term Plan will continue to deliver the best possible care for patients so that we can offer faster, more personalised and effective cancer treatment for all.”
Addenbrooke’s is part of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Image from Microsoft