Cutting-edge digital technology is being trialled in a project which could revolutionise breast cancer scanning and analysis – potentially saving thousands of lives and speeding up the process for patients.

The Healthcare Innovation Centre (HIC), a partnership between Teesside University and TWI, is part of the new INTELLISCAN project.

It is examining the use of artificial intelligence to completely digitise breast cancer MRI interpretation and reporting, leading to more reliable and accurate analysis and faster diagnosis and treatment.

The UK currently has one of the worst survival rates for cancer in Western Europe, with one in every five women newly diagnosed with breast cancer dying. At present, screening mammograms do not find about 20% of breast cancers and there has been a global move towards breast MRI as a more efficient screening method.

However, current technology still requires human interpretation of the image data which can be timely and subject to human error, due to fatigue or stretched resources for example.

The INTELLISCAN project, funded by Innovate UK, is using advanced image processing and deep machine learning to deliver improved automated detection for breast MRI scans. The technology will utilise a Breast Image Interpretation and Transmission Model (BIITM) to interpret and transmit image data, instantly detecting anomalies and categorising them by severity. It will also flag any discrepancies through the patient’s history and expected progress.

Dr Jianxin Gao is Director of the HIC at Teesside University and says the world leading research could revolutionise breast cancer scanning and analysis and have a significant impact on people’s healthcare.

“This technology could completely change the way breast cancer MRI’s are scanned, analysed, reported and actioned,” explained Dr Gao.

“Hospital radiographers will be presented with digitally advanced and highly reliable reports, allowing them to treat and diagnose a greater number of patients.

“Using artificial intelligence in this way will provide instant automated results from breast MRI scans.
There will be greater availability of doctors and medical staff, resulting in reduced patient waiting times. In addition, the technology will provide greater accuracy and reduce reliance on human interpretation.”

If successful, Dr Gao says there is no reason why the technology could not be rolled out for other illnesses which require MRI scans.

The HIC draws on existing strengths at Teesside University and TWI to create a centre of excellence in healthcare technologies. It aims to carry out world-leading research that makes a significant impact on people’s lives and wellbeing.

Dr Gao added: “This is an exciting project and one that could make considerable and positive changes to the healthcare sector – improving the accuracy and speed of breast cancer MRI analysis. Early detection is crucial to survival and this technology could help to save the lives of thousands of patients.”

The INTELLISCAN project has received a grant of £830,000 from Innovate UK. As well as the HIC, the project is working with partners Brunel University London and First Option Software.

Teesside University’s HIC will concentrate on image processing and patient data, Brunel University’s Innovation Centre will lead on the artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, while First Option Software will integrate the technology into a software application.

Professor Tat-Hean Gan, Brunel Innovation Centre’s Director, said: “The system integrates a series of visualisation, data processing, data communication and decision-support systems which will enable it to dramatically improve access to breast healthcare and cancer treatment compliance.”

Matthew Clarke, Managing Director of First Option Software, added: “We are excited to be the business lead of this project, which is our first project to develop a bespoken solution for the healthcare sector. It will enable us to extend our business to the healthcare sector and many more.”