£14million awarded to UHCW set to reduce limbo for cancer patients

A £14m government grant to advance the use of artificial intelligence in cancer diagnosis has been announced today (Tuesday 6 November).

It could bring to an end the misery of ‘limbo’ felt by thousands of people waiting for a cancer diagnosis.

Business Secretary Greg Clark confirmed that UK Research and Innovation will invest £14 million into a consortium led by University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust - as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The consortium ‘PathLAKE’ in partnership with University of Warwick and Philips will collaborate on a three year project that will involve experts from NHS hospitals and universities at Belfast, Oxford and Nottingham. 
 
The project will be hosted by the new UHCW Institute of Precision Diagnostics and Translational medicine to ensure rapid translation into clinical practice. Together they could revolutionise the future of cancer care by speeding up the detection of some cancers while being more accurate, as well as paving the way for personalised care.
  
Breast cancer patient Harriet from Coventry who was diagnosed just before Christmas has welcomed the news.
 
She said: “I had an additional six core biopsies before Christmas because the first six were unclear.   Waiting on the results felt like I was in limbo, it was an incredibly anxious time because I just wanted to know what I was facing so I could mentally prepare myself.  The funding is fantastic news and will make the world of difference to people like me.”
 
The new Centre for Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be based at University Hospital in Coventry where digital pathology was first used to diagnose cancer.  The technology that will be used is so advanced that it will be able to detect biomarkers for breast cancer such as HER2 and PD-L1 much quicker than ever before.
 
The project will focus on breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers.
 
For these patients it will mean greater accuracy at detecting cancerous cells as well and better prediction of response to cancer treatment.
 
The funding will also be used to establish a ‘Data lake’ where anonymous patient data will be collected and used in research to look for patterns and trends – helping to further advance cancer care and other treatments. 
 
Professor David Snead, Consultant Histopathologist and clinical lead said: “Artificial intelligence used to be a thing of the future but I am delighted it is now set to transform how we do some pathology tests.  It will mean that results will be quicker, more accurate and more sensitive than ever before, leading to improved patient care.  This is an incredibly exciting time for the future of cancer diagnosis.” 
 
Co-Director Professor Nasir Rajpoot of Warwick University’s computer science department said: “We are delighted to have co-led this successful bid with UHCW. It builds on our existing collaboration extending back over the last 10 years and gives us the opportunity to demonstrate what our world leading collaboration can achieve in developing AI for pathology.”

Andrew Hardy, Chief Executive Officer of University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust said: “This announcement is incredible news for patients and is testament to the hard work and dedication of our pathology team and their partners. Working through the new UHCW Institute of Precision Diagnostics and Translational medicine this allows UHCW to lead the way in translating new technologies to clinical practice which will be truly world-class.”

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive Professor Sir Mark Walport said: "Early diagnosis of illness can greatly increase the chances of successful treatment and save lives.  The centres announced today bring together the teams that will develop artificial intelligence tools that can analyse medical images varying from x-rays to microscopic sections from tissue biopsies. Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise the speed and accuracy of medical diagnosis.”

Peter Hamilton, Head of Research, Philips Digital and Computational Pathology comments: “Pathology is central to ensuring accurate diagnosis for patients with diseases such as cancer, and in determining the precise course of action. However, our ageing population, with rapidly rising sample requirements and increasing case complexity, are placing ongoing pressures on a workforce, which is itself ageing. This creates challenges to ensuring early diagnosis and precision therapies and requires urgent attention, so we are delighted the UK government recognises the potential that digitisation and AI could bring to pathology. We are excited to play a part in helping the UK to take a leading role in the development and delivery of these new technologies that can improve patient outcomes and re-invigorate the workforce. With PathLAKE our aim is realise large scale AI-driven cancer analysis, we see this as a significant step toward realising the true potential of personalised medicine and supporting the NHS.”
 


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