Breast cancer breakthrough with new AI that can predict whether disease will spread – and experts think it could save thousands of lives
- The technology measures the immune response of lymph nodes
- Researchers at King’s College London tested on 5,000 donated by 345 patients
Scientists have developed artificial intelligence that can predict whether a patient’s breast cancer will spread.
The technology measures the immune response of lymph nodes, pea-sized pieces of tissue that help the body fight infection.
Tests on the lymph nodes of people with triple-negative breast cancer — an aggressive disease that’s one of the most likely to spread or return — showed it could predict whether it was likely to metastasize.
Experts said the breakthrough could lead to more tailored treatment based on a woman’s individual risk profile, helping to stop the disease before it becomes incurable.
Researchers at King’s College London developed an AI model that they tested on more than 5,000 lymph nodes donated by 345 patients.
Scientists have developed artificial intelligence that can predict whether a patient’s breast cancer will spread (stock image)
Breast cancer cells usually spread first to the axillary or axillary lymph nodes, which are closest to the tumor.
When this happens, patients are usually given more intensive treatment to try to stop development elsewhere.
But scientists found that even when the breast cancer cells hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes, their immune response made it possible to predict the likelihood of the cancer spreading elsewhere.
They used a computer program to perform image analysis of lymph nodes in cancer patients, which were then compared to patient records and whether their breast cancer had spread.
Dr. Anita Grigoriadis, who led the study at King’s College London’s Breast Cancer Now Unit, said: ‘Using our AI, we looked at many lymph node images and were able to target specific patterns.
“What we’ve seen is that when we look at a lot of lymph nodes from a lot of patients, we saw that when we find these features, they seem to be a sign that the patient is somehow capable of developing cancer.” delay longer in other organs than in these patients where we did not find these features in the lymph nodes.’
She added: ‘By showing that lymph node changes can predict whether triple-negative breast cancer will spread, we have built on our growing knowledge of the important role immune response can play in understanding a patient’s prognosis.’
About 15 percent of breast cancers are triple negative and there are currently few targeted treatments.
It is more common in women who have inherited an altered BRCA gene – made famous by Angelina Jolie – as well as black women, premenopausal women, and women under 40.
By publishing their findings in the Journal of Pathology, they hope to test the AI model in clinical trials.
Dr. Simon Vincent, director of research, support and advocacy at Breast Cancer Now, said: ‘Each year around 8,000 UK women are diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which is a more aggressive form of breast cancer, often with poorer outcomes.
“If this research makes it possible to offer women more tailored treatment and care based on the risk of breast cancer metastasis, it could help save lives and reduce stress and worry. We look forward to further findings to understand how this could work in practice to benefit women affected by this type of breast cancer.”