We’re pioneering the use of AI software to transform prostate cancer diagnosis


We’re pioneering the use of AI software to transform prostate cancer diagnosis

A groundbreaking way of supporting doctors to diagnose prostate cancer using the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology has launched in Somerset.

We’ve joined forces with Cambridge-based technology company, Lucida Medical, as the first NHS trust in the UK to introduce its AI tool, called Pi, to work alongside teams of radiologists.

With support from charities Macmillan Cancer Support and Prostate Cancer Research, the Pi tool is being introduced at both Yeovil District and Musgrove Park hospitals to assist radiologists in detecting clinically significant prostate cancer, using an AI technique that looks at a prostate MRI scan.

Macmillan estimates that there are more than 500,000 men living with prostate cancer in the UK. It’s the most common cancer in men, and 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed in their lifetime. Prostate cancer is particularly dangerous when found at stages 3 or 4, and more than 12,000 deaths occur in the UK each year.

Dr Paul Burn, one of our consultant radiologists, explains how the trust came to be involved in this innovative project.

“This all started when we participated in a multi-centre national trial, called ‘PAIR-1’, that assessed the effectiveness of Pi,” he says.

“We then trialled a version of Pi at our trust, and we compared its results to radiologists’ reports in over 700 patients, to check that it would work for our purpose.

“The way it works is really simple – within a few minutes of the patient having their MRI scan, the Pi tool displays a number that gives a probability of cancer on the scan. It also shows the exact location of any tumours in the prostate by adding a colour overlay to the scan images.

“The software is located securely on a server within the hospital, so no patient data leaves the trust.

“Using it, we expect to help relieve pressure within our hospital, by enabling patients to go through the diagnostic pathway more rapidly and reducing diagnostic waiting times. It will also support our clinical departments that have smaller numbers of MRI reporters to manage their workload.

“We know that we have to be very careful with the way we use AI, and it’s not intended to replace a human being in this context – instead it’s simply helping to speed up the workflow and potentially aiding our radiologists provide a more accurate diagnosis.

“In many ways we’re using it as a ‘reporting buddy’, so it’ll help with prioritising patients based on clinical need, and telling us which patients we should report on first because they have a higher probability of cancer. Pi also measures the volume of the prostate gland for us, a repetitive job that is time-consuming for radiologists to do manually.

“Patients with prostate cancer have a complicated diagnostic pathway, needing an MRI and a biopsy and it is often challenging to complete all the steps within the national 28 day Faster Diagnosis Standard.

“Our aim is that by using this AI software, we will be able to speed up the process and enable us to prioritise those with cancer. It’ll also free up our radiologists to report on additional patients every day, and may in future allow us to book the patient in for a biopsy more quickly.”

Dr Antony Rix, CEO and co-founder of Lucida Medical, says: “NHS hospitals, including Musgrove Park and Yeovil District, have made key contributions to the development and testing of Pi through clinical studies. It’s therefore a great pleasure to see Pi put to work to help prostate patients in Somerset get the best possible diagnosis.”

Dr Anthony Cunliffe, National Lead Medical Adviser at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Our investment in Lucida Medical and its pioneering AI platform, Pi, is the latest venture as part of our Innovation Impact Investment Portfolio.

“Pi has the potential to transform how we diagnose and monitor patients with prostate cancer, so we’re thrilled to see this software being put to use in Musgrove Park and Yeovil District.

We look forward to seeing more hospitals across the UK and Europe recognising the great potential of this technology.”

Oliver Kemp, CEO at Prostate Cancer Research (PCR), said: “We're passionate about bringing the best diagnostics and treatments into clinical use to benefit prostate cancer patients. We are delighted that Lucida Medical has reached this tremendous milestone following PCR’s investment in the company and its revolutionary Pi technology.”