Waterloo: Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been developed by engineers at the University of Waterloo to determine whether chemotherapy before surgery would be beneficial for people with breast cancer.
The open-source Cancer-Net initiative’s new AI system could help unsuitable candidates avoid the harmful side effects of chemotherapy and improve surgical outcomes for those who are qualified. It is lead by Dr Alexander Wong.
“Determining the right treatment for a given breast cancer patient is very difficult right now, and it is crucial to avoid unnecessary side effects from using treatments that are unlikely to have real benefit for that patient,” said Wong, a professor of systems design engineering.
“An AI system that can help predict if a patient is likely to respond well to a given treatment gives doctors the tool needed to prescribe the best personalized treatment for a patient to improve recovery and survival.”
In a project led by Amy Tai, a graduate student with the Vision and Image Processing (VIP) Lab, the AI software was trained with images of breast cancer made with a new magnetic image resonance modality, invented by Wong and his team, called synthetic correlated diffusion imaging (CDI).
With knowledge gleaned from CDI images of old breast cancer cases and information on their outcomes, the AI can predict if pre-operative chemotherapy treatment would benefit new patients based on their CDI images.
Known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy, the pre-surgical treatment can shrink tumours to make surgery possible or easier and reduce the need for major surgery such as mastectomies.
“I’m quite optimistic about this technology as deep-learning AI has the potential to see and discover patterns that relate to whether a patient will benefit from a given treatment,” said Wong, a director of the VIP Lab and the Canada Research Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Medical Imaging.