Trial finds AI detects cancer twice as quickly as humans

Technology will be used to improve the accuracy of radiation beams to combat the disease

Radiotherapy is used in more than half of cancers cases. Estimates suggest AI will be used to improve treatment in more than two thirds of those cases in the future. Getty Images
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A tool that uses artificial intelligence will be introduced across the NHS in England to improve the accuracy and speed of breast cancer treatment.

NHS radiotherapy departments will use radiation beams against cancer with more precision under a £15.5 million plan.

A trial conducted at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge showed it worked up to two and half times more quickly than medics, who ordinarily spend up to two hours analysing over 100 scan cross-sections to plan patients’ treatment.

Radiotherapy is used in 50 to 60 per cent of cancer diagnoses. Estimates suggest AI will be used to improve treatment in more than two thirds of those cases in the future.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the introduction of the technology to treat breast cancer in English hospitals represented a “historic moment in our treatment of this terrible disease” which will help cut waiting lists and speed up the time between referral and treatment.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will attend a virtual meeting of world leaders on Tuesday as part of an AI Safety Summit in Seoul.

The event is a follow-up to a gathering held at Bletchley Park last year, which resulted in a declaration signed by world leaders “to co-operate on AI to promote inclusive economic growth, sustainable development and innovation, to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to foster public trust and confidence in AI systems”.

Mr Sunak said the technology “promises to improve the accuracy and speed” of breast cancer diagnosis.

The National Institute of Healthcare and Excellence approved the use of AI technology in health care last autumn.

It came after a review which found its use would save doctors time “to spend more time with patients or concentrate on complex cases when using AI is not appropriate”.

It is believed the technology could be used to treat other cancers, including lung, prostate and colorectal.

Figures released last year showed that less than three in five cancer patients receive their first treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral.

Last year, it was revealed that an artificial intelligence-based tool for estimating a newly-diagnosed cancer patient’s chances for surviving long term had been developed by researchers.

Unlike conventional methods that primarily depend on cancer staging, the tool incorporates a host of influential factors such as patient age and tumour size to specific treatment variables, offering a more comprehensive and personalised survival prognosis.

Updated: May 26, 2024, 7:52 PM