February 5, 2023

Artificial intelligence may be more effective than the human eye alone in detecting early signs of bowel cancer.

A new UK trial is investigating whether adding artificial intelligence technology, which uses computer algorithms to scan and read images, to standard colonoscopy exams improves the accuracy of these scans.

More than 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year and 16,000 die from it, making it the second most common cause of cancer death.

Colonoscopies are the “gold standard” way of diagnosing the disease. This is where the large intestine is examined using a camera attached to a thin, flexible tube.

Artificial intelligence may be more effective than the human eye alone in detecting early signs of colon cancer

The camera transmits live images from inside the intestine to a screen, allowing the doctor performing the procedure to check for precancerous polyps called adenomas, small growths that can be found on the wall of the intestine. Bowel cancer is thought to develop from these polyps, and if detected, they can be removed during the procedure.

However, while colonoscopies are extremely effective, three out of 100 exams miss a cancer or polyp that may be small, flat or hidden in the folds of the intestine, but develops into cancer, according to the NHS.

The scientists hope that the integration of artificial intelligence technology – which not only reads the scans but also learns as they go – into existing colonoscopy equipment could help save more lives by increasing the accuracy of the 45-minute procedure, from so that more cancers are detected at an early stage. when they are easier to treat.

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To try to locate these hard-to-find abnormalities, US researchers have developed an artificial intelligence box called the GI Genius that connects to colonoscopy equipment and analyzes video images in real time.

Colonoscopies are the way

Colonoscopies are the “gold standard” way of diagnosing the disease. This is where the large intestine is examined with a camera attached to a thin, flexible tube (File photo)

If it detects anything unusual, the device creates a green box on the screen that pinpoints a precise section of the lining of the intestine that needs closer inspection and issues an alert. The doctor conducting the scan will decide whether to investigate further.

The first UK trial to test the AI ​​device is halfway through evaluating around 2,000 NHS patients.

Patients enrolled in the trial have had a colonoscopy before or have experienced symptoms such as blood in their stools or significant changes in their bowel habits, which they reported to their GP; or have taken part in the NHS Gut Screening Program (a home test kit sent to adults aged 60-74 in England and 50 and over in Scotland).

Half of those participating in the trial will undergo a standard colonoscopy, the other half with the AI ​​device.

Nine hospitals across England are taking part in the Colo-Detect trial, mainly in the North East, and the study is led by the University of Newcastle and South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.

The trial, funded by the US medical device company Medtronic, which designed the device, will end in April (investigators will assess both the clinical profitability and the profitability of the technology).

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Results from the first US trial of the device, published in the American Journal Gastroenterology last year, showed a 50 percent reduction in missed polyps when the AI ​​technology was used compared to standard colonoscopy.

Commenting on the new trial, Dr Duncan Gilbert, consultant clinical oncologist in lower gastrointestinal cancers at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Colorectal cancer remains a major public health challenge for the UK.” Worryingly, it is also becoming more common in younger patients.

‘Screening colonoscopy to find and remove polyps and early cancers has been shown to save lives and anything that improves the effectiveness of colonoscopy is welcome.

“Testing new technologies in properly conducted clinical trials like this is exactly what we need to do and is an example of how NHS clinical research is leading the world.”