AI system matches professional expertise in prostate cancer diagnosis 

dr holding prostate cancer ribbon
© iStock/Chinnapong

Lancet Oncology published results of a study that demonstrates the accuracy of an AI system that diagnoses prostate cancer in tissue samples.

The study, which was led by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, revealed that the AI system in place had phenomenal accuracy in determining whether a sample contained cancer. The AI system was also able to estimate the length of the cancer tumour in the biopsy.

The AI system, OncoWatch, was discovered to be on the same level of 23 international, leading uropathologists in determining the Gleason score, which is the most important prognostic marker for prostate cancer. The OncoWatch project combines big data, AI and cloud-based technologies to achieve several advances in the imaging of prostate biopsies, analytical tools for precision medicine to support effective treatment, and cloud-based infrastructure for easy access to the platform anytime, anywhere.

Support from EIT Health

EIT Health has played an important and key role in fast-tracking the development and execution of the new system. By the end of the year, the first CE-marked product is expected to be launched. EIT Health has championed the development of this product by offering financial and networking support.

Martin Eklund, Associate Professor at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Institutet explained:  “Our AI tool has the potential to reduce the workload of uropathologists, allowing them to focus on the most difficult cases and at the same time act as a safety net to improve quality. It also has the potential to speed up diagnostics and reduce costs for healthcare services.”

OncoWatch was developed by the same talented team that introduced Stockholm3, the new blood-based prostate cancer diagnostic test, in 2017.

Stockholm3 doubles the number of aggressive cancers that are identified, whilst also reducing the number of unnecessary biopsies by 50% compared to current clinical practice with PSA. Stockholm3 is currently used in medical practice in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.

As part of the development of OncoWatch, the AI system will be validated in 2020 in a nine-country multicentre study to assess its performance across different labs and in a wider range of digital pathology scanners.

Martin Steinberg, Project Leader for EIT Health-backed OncoWatch explained: “There is a high demand for improved tools in prostate cancer diagnostics and we have proven that we can take new innovative tests to the market.

“The Stockholm3 test was used in more than 20,000 men in the Nordics alone in 2019, and I believe that our new AI system, OncoWatch, will also have strong uptake.”

Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among men in Europe, with approximately 450,000 new cases each year. Early diagnosis and treatment of aggressive prostate cancer is crucial to survival.

Jan-Philipp Beck, CEO of EIT Health commented: “Prostate cancer blights the lives of a large number of men in Europe each year, and despite the advent of new and innovative diagnostics and treatments, we still see too many men die from the condition. Prostate cancer is often treatable with early diagnosis and effective treatment, and AI represents a large opportunity to complement existing medical expertise within the diagnostic process.

“The results of the study demonstrate the exciting developments that are happening in the field of AI, and how the technology can be applied to medical practice to improve the lives of patients and citizens in Europe. EIT Health is proud to support both the Stockholm3 and OncoWatch projects in the development of improved diagnostic tools to tackle prostate cancer.”


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