UK researchers have developed an artificial intelligence (AI)-based model that can predict if breast cancer has spread to another part of the body including the liver, lungs, brain, or bones.
The AI model, developed by a team from the King’s College London, is able to detect spread by looking at changes in the lymph nodes — the structures under the arm and one of the first places that breast cancer can spread to in women with triple negative breast cancer.
Triple negative breast cancer accounts for about 10-15 per cent of all breast cancers and can be more aggressive. It is also more likely to return or spread during the first years following treatment.
To detect the spread of triple negative breast cancer, the AI model, detailed in the Journal of Pathology, checks the immune response in the lymph nodes.
“By demonstrating that lymph node changes can predict if triple negative breast cancer will spread, we’ve built on our growing knowledge of the important role that immune response can play in understanding a patient’s prognosis,” said Dr Anita Grigoriadis, who led the research at the Breast Cancer Now Unit at King’s College London.
Her team tested the AI model on more than 5,000 lymph nodes that 345 patients donated to biobanks. Through testing, they confirmed that the AI model could predict how likely the disease was to spread to other organs.
The researchers hope that eventually this AI model will be tested in clinical trials and that it could one day assist doctors in planning treatment.
This could also help reassure people with breast cancer about it spreading to other parts of the body.
“We’re planning to test the model further at centres across Europe to make it even more robust and precise. The transition from assessing tissue on glass slides under a microscope to using computers in the NHS is gathering pace. We want to leverage this change to develop AI-powered software based on our model for pathologists to use to benefit women with this hard-to-treat breast cancer,” Grigoriadis said.
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