Chinese researchers have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) medical tool that can help doctors improve diagnostic accuracy in detecting upper gastrointestinal cancers through analysis of imaging data from clinical examinations, according to an article recently published in the international journal Lancet Oncology.
Upper gastrointestinal cancers (including oesophageal cancer and gastric cancer) are among the most common malignancies and causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Most upper gastrointestinal cancers are diagnosed at advanced stages because their signs and symptoms tend to be latent and non-specific. If detected early, the five-year survival rate can exceed 90 percent.
The current method for early detection of the cancers is endoscopy, which mainly relies on the skills and experience of the physician. However, there is a shortage of health care professionals well trained in the use of endoscopes in Chinese county-level hospitals, resulting in a very low rate of early diagnosis.
Based on more than 50,000 endoscopic images selected from the cancer patients and 120,000 from healthy individuals, a research team from the Cancer Center of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou developed an AI-assisted screening model, which can diagnose the cancers with an accuracy of over 96 percent.
To validate and test the AI model, named the Gastrointestinal Artificial Intelligence Diagnostic System (GRAIDS), researchers fed it with more than 1 million endoscopic images from 84,000 patients in five hospitals across China. Results showed that the model can diagnose the cancers with an accuracy of over 90 percent.
It is the latest case of Chinese researchers using AI technology to assist physicians in clinical diagnosis. The GRAIDS achieved high diagnostic accuracy in detecting upper gastrointestinal cancers, with sensitivity similar to that of experts who have a minimum of five years of experience in endoscopic procedures, and it has been found to improve the performance of inexperienced endoscopists, said Xu Ruihua, head of the research team.
According to the National Cancer Center, about 50 percent of the world's upper gastrointestinal cancers occur in China and more than 85 percent of the patients are diagnosed with late cancers, causing over 400,000 deaths each year.
The system has been adopted in five hospitals of the country. Researchers said they will explore further potential applications of the AI system to assist more primary care hospitals in improving their effectiveness in cancer diagnoses.