Artificial intelligence is being used to help detect early signs of oesophageal cancer, a disease with a five-year survival rate of under 20 per cent.
The first procedure in the world using the so-called CADU AI technology was performed at University College Hospital by UCLH consultant gastroenterologist Dr Rehan Haidry.
CADU achieved regulatory approval at the start of 2021 making it the first medical device using AI for oesophageal cancer to be CE and UKCA approved for use on patients. It has been developed in collaboration with UCL scientists, including Dr Haidry, and Odin Vision, a spinout formed out of the research and innovation work at the UCL Wellcome / EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences.
Early signs of oesophageal cancer are difficult to diagnose and is one of the six less survivable cancers. Studies have shown that up to 25 per cent of early cancers in the oesophagus are missed during endoscopy procedures.
To diagnose this cancer, a doctor will typically use an endoscope to look inside the patient’s throat for the early signs of the disease, which can manifest in subtle changes to the colour and pattern of tissue, which can be very hard to spot. The patient is usually awake during the procedure and is often given mild medication to numb the throat.
The CADU artificial intelligence system has been shown hundreds of thousands of images of diseased tissue and has learned to classify tissue using the visual patterns in images. During the endoscopy procedure, CADU analyses the image from the video camera in real time and provides information about the visual characteristics of the tissue, supporting doctors in their inspection of the oesophagus. If detected early, the disease can be eradicated over 90 per cent of the time with a less invasive procedure.
In a statement, Dr Haidry, who has worked closely with Odin Vision on developing CADU, said: “Oesophageal cancer remains a very big challenge for us and carries a very high mortality compared to other solid organ cancers. It is imperative that we can detect changes early when we carry out routine endoscopic examinations, because we are now in an era where we can deliver early curative treatment that can improve the outlook for patients with oesophageal cancer.
“Despite the fantastic development of imaging and training there is still room for improvement and the new CADU system will allow us to improve early detection and streamline the care for these patients across the country. It has been a huge privilege to be working with the great team at Odin Vision on this project and I am very excited to finally see it being used in routine clinical care on our patients and in our endoscopy unit at UCLH.”