Imperial College Healthcare to join pioneering study to improve prostate cancer diagnosis using AI

Men across England could benefit from faster diagnosis and quicker treatment of prostate cancer following the expansion of a pioneering trial of Artificial Intelligence to analyse biopsies.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust is one of six hospitals joining the study, which will look at a new technology to help reduce diagnostic errors and speed up diagnosis.  

The technology, which has been developed by health tech company Ibex Medical Analytics, will be used by clinicians at the Trust and the results of the AI analysis will be compared to current diagnosis methods, where biopsies are meticulously reviewed by a pathologist. 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. In the UK, nearly 100,000 men undergo a prostate biopsy every year - a number expected to double in the next ten years. More than 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in England every year. 

Principal investigator, Professor Hashim Ahmed, chair of urology at Imperial College London and consultant urological surgeon at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust said: “We strongly believe that AI has the potential to enhance both quality and efficiency, which is of paramount importance as we focus on putting every patient on the path to recovery. 

“Ibex’s technology has demonstrated its robustness on several studies abroad and so we look forward to seeing its performance and utility firsthand in the NHS.” 

The study will have two phases - the first will use historic biopsy samples to 'fine tune' the technology across the six study sites. Researchers will look to confirm that the technology correctly identifies signs of prostate cancer and accurately grades this in samples which may have been processed slightly differently, by different high-resolution scanners and at different hospitals. 

The second phase, lasting a year or longer, will recruit around 600 patients referred for a biopsy who will be asked if the research team can also process their sample using the AI technology, as well as through examination by an expert pathologist. Patients who consent to their samples being used in the study will not experience any difference in their care as the research will be integrated with their NHS treatment. The samples will also be checked by two additional pathologists to validate the results produced by the AI software.

Funded as part of the £140 million NHSX AI in Health and Care awards, the study will enable the researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of the AI solution, called Galen™ Prostate, in detecting and grading cancer in prostate biopsies. The funding will be used for deploying and evaluating the AI technology, with the potential for it to be adopted more widely across the health service, cutting diagnosis times and freeing up valuable clinician time. 

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said: “Artificial intelligence has the potential to transform our health and care system and studies like this are vital in understanding the impact AI can make. 

“Cancer diagnosis and treatment has remained a top priority throughout the pandemic and I am committed to busting the backlog in cancer care. 

“The earlier cancer is detected the quicker it is treated leading to better outcomes for patients, so this ground-breaking work has the potential to benefit thousands of people.” 

Alongside Imperial College Healthcare, University College London, University Hospital of Coventry & Warwickshire, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and University Hospital Southampton will all be joining the study. 

Minister for innovation Lord Bethell said: “I am committed to ensuring the UK becomes a leader in health technology, including through pioneering AI studies like this so our NHS and patients can benefit from better diagnosis and treatment. 

“Initiatives like the “AI in Health and Care” awards are accelerating the testing and evaluation of the most promising AI technologies to improve our health and care system. 

“The next round of funding is open now, and I look forward to seeing more trailblazing organisations like Ibex Medical Analytics demonstrate how AI can be used to revolutionise healthcare.” 

Matthew Gould, NHSX CEO, said: “We are currently caught between having too few pathologists and rising demand for biopsies. This technology could help, and give thousands of men with prostate cancer faster, more accurate diagnoses. 

“It is a prime example of how AI can help clinicians improve care for patients as we recover from the pandemic.” 

Joseph Mossel, CEO and co-founder of Ibex Medical Analytics, said: “This funding acknowledges the potential of AI in pathology practice and the scientific evidence and clinical utility we have demonstrated to date. 

“The UK is clearly on track to become a world leader in implementing AI technologies in healthcare and we look forward to cooperating with our NHS partners and introducing our AI solution into multiple pathology labs in the UK.”