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Houston Methodist Researchers Develop AI Software to Expedite Breast Cancer Risk Prediction

September 1, 2016
by Heather Landi
| Reprints

Researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital developed an artificial intelligence (AI) software that reliably interprets mammograms, assisting doctors with an expedited, accurate prediction of breast cancer risk.

The research results, recently published as a study in Cancer, indicated that the computer software translates patient charts into diagnostic information at 30 times human speed and with 99 percent accuracy, according to a Houston Methodist press release about the study.

“This software intelligently reviews millions of records in a short amount of time, enabling us to determine breast cancer risk more efficiently using a patient’s mammogram. This has the potential to decrease unnecessary biopsies,” Stephen Wong, Ph.D., chair of the department of systems medicine and bioengineering at Houston Methodist Research Institute, said in a statement.

The team led by Wong and Jenny Chang, M.D., director of the Houston Methodist Cancer Center, used the AI software to evaluate mammograms and pathology reports of 500 breast cancer patients. The software scanned patient charts, collected diagnostic features and correlated mammogram findings with breast cancer subtype. Clinicians used results, like the expression of tumor proteins, to accurately predict each patient’s probability of breast cancer diagnosis.

In the United States, 12.1 million mammograms are performed annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fifty percent yield false positive results, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), resulting in one in every two healthy women told they have cancer.

Currently, when mammograms fall into the suspicious category, a broad range of 3 to 95 percent cancer risk, patients are recommended for biopsies.

Over 1.6 million breast biopsies are performed annually nationwide, and about 20 percent are unnecessarily performed due to false-positive mammogram results of cancer free breasts, estimates the ACS.  

The Houston Methodist researchers hope this artificial intelligence software will help physicians better define the percent risk requiring a biopsy, equipping doctors with a tool to decrease unnecessary breast biopsies.

According to the study authors, manual review of 50 charts took two clinicians 50 to 70 hours. AI reviewed 500 charts in a few hours, saving over 500 physician hours.

“Accurate review of this many charts would be practically impossible without AI,” Wong said in a statement.

The research was supported in part by the John S. Dunn Research Foundation.

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