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UHCW to lead study that could speed up bowel cancer diagnosis

A national study that could help accelerate diagnoses for cancer and other serious conditions of the large bowel is to be led by University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust.

This landmark project is the first to examine if computers can assist human pathologists and will transform the way cellular pathology is practised worldwide.

The study will take place at 10 UK NHS Trusts and examine the effectiveness of one of the computer algorithms created from the PathLAKE project designed to use computers to replicate how human pathologists examine diagnostic samples taken from the large bowel.

Around 30 to 50 per cent of these samples are normal and it is these which the algorithm is designed to recognise and report.

This will ease some of the workload for human pathologists and allow them to concentrate on samples which contain serious disease such as cancer.

UHCW pathology expert, Professor David Snead, who has designed and will lead the study, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to be able to take one the tools we have been creating in the PathLAKE study and test it across the UK.

“This will change the way pathology is delivered across the globe. It is a win-win situation.

“Patients get faster diagnoses because the normal cases receive an automated report from the computer running 24/7, while pathologists can go straight to those samples which contain disease and need their expertise.”

The study begins next month, will take three years to complete and is designed to deliver definitive evidence allowing regulatory authorities to approve the technology for use across the NHS.

A £2.6m grant from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), part of a £16 million Government investment in the third round of the AI in Health and Care Awards, will fund the study.

Professor Nasir Rajpoot from the University of Warwick, who will be academic partners, added: “There is great potential for AI in pathology.

“Our revolutionary technology can significantly reduce the burden of colon biopsy screening, helping pathologists focus on cases that require special attention.”

The consortium comprises 10 NHS sites: Coventry, Nottingham, Cambridge, Oxford, Southampton, Glasgow, Newcastle, Durham, North Tees and Wolverhampton, who will provide a total of 10,000 biopsy samples.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Around 300,000 people have already benefitted from companies supported by our AI awards, with tens of thousands more set to benefit.

“The UK is a scientific superpower and we need to harness this brilliance to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the NHS which will help us to cut waiting lists, offer patients the best care possible and ultimately save lives.”

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