AI technology joins cancer cell search
ECU’s Melanoma researchers have now teamed up with artificial intelligence specialists from September AI Labs to develop a way to use the technology to accurately identify cancer cells circulating in the blood.
Cancer spreads around the body when tumour cells shed from the primary tumour and travel through the blood to form secondary tumours (metastases) in other organs.
"By detecting and counting these circulating tumour cells (CTCs), clinicians and doctors can better understand what stage a cancer is at and predict the likelihood of a patient’s responsiveness to different treatments, thus improving patient outcomes," says ECU’s Associate Professor Elin Gray.
This AI technology has reduced this process down to a few minutes per patient.
The CTCs are incredibly difficult to spot among thousands of other cells and matter in blood; they are very rare, so it’s much like finding a needle in a haystack.
Within one millilitre of blood, there is often less than ten cancer cells amongst one billion red cells and one million white blood cells.
"Until now, it has taken a trained technician a few hours per patient sample to manually filter different characteristics of cells using traditional imaging techniques," according to Professor Gray.