Artificial Intelligence programme to teach itself accurate assessment of prostate cancer treatment options

Seattle 29 March 1999 Northwest Prostate Institute is a Northwest Hospital clinic, which is dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment and research of prostate disease and cancer. Dr. Leroy Korb is attached to this institution in the capacity of board certified radiation oncologist. Together with Jeff Brandt, Ph.D., president of Xaim, Inc., he has introduced an innovative medical software at the annual American Cancer Society Science Writers Seminar in Miami, that is used for artificial intelligence or artificial neural networks. This highly efficient new method, which is applied to assist both physicians and patients in choosing effective treatment options for organ-confined early-stage prostate cancer, was originally developed for military uses.

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Northwest Prostate Institute is a Northwest Hospital clinic, which is dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment and research of prostate disease and cancer. Dr. Leroy Korb is attached to this institution in the capacity of board certified radiation oncologist. Together with Jeff Brandt, Ph.D., president of Xaim, Inc., he has introduced an innovative medical software at the annual American Cancer Society Science Writers Seminar in Miami, that is used for artificial intelligence or artificial neural networks. This highly efficient new method, which is applied to assist both physicians and patients in choosing effective treatment options for organ-confined early-stage prostate cancer, was originally developed for military uses.

In the United States, prostate cancer forms the most frequently diagnosed cancer in male patients. Approximately 179.300 patients will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. The disease will be responsible for a death-rate of more than 37.000 people in 1999, according to the estimates of the American Cancer Society. The Xaim software achieves an accuracy of up to 90% in predicting prostate cancer treatment outcomes. Therefore, the Northwest Hospital's prostate cancer team has decided to study the use of the Artificial Intelligence Programme for the evaluation of treatment options.

The research team of Dr. Korb has instructed the computer how to analyse data from many medical variables in prostate cancer cases, as to make an informed comparison of specific treatment options for the patient. The software programme "taught" itself to predict outcomes by analysing data about the diagnosis and treatment of 142 Northwest Hospital prostate cancer patients. Actual patient history records, which included age, PSA level, cancer stage, and biopsy Gleason score, were integrated into the programme, along with the type of treatment that was given and the eventual outcome. The programme was created in a way that it was able to recognize patterns showing the correlation between a mix of variables and outcomes from actual patient histories.

In order to test the programme's accuracy, diagnostic variables for another 42 previously treated prostate cancer patients were fed into the computer. The programme was asked to indicate the comparative success of three treatment options, which included watchful waiting, brachytherapy, and brachytherapy in combination with external beam radiation. The software proved to be 80-90% accurate in predicting the patient's actual outcomes. Prostate cancer brachytherapy is performed at Northwest Hospital by means of ultrasound guidance. Tiny radioactive "seeds" are inserted into the area around the prostate lesion. The Northwest Hospital physicians are pioneers of the procedure in the United States. External beam radiation may be used alone or as a supplement to brachytherapy. Research has shown this method to have a 66% disease-free survival rate at ten-year follow-up.

The Xiam artificial neural network software covers a wide range of potential medical applications, as stated by company president Jeff Brandt, who also claims that by simulating the way in which humans process information, the programme can learn the underlying patterns in the data, in order to predict an outcome for a new patient. In addition to Xaim's project with Northwest Hospital to assess the success of brachytherapy treatment with and without external beam radiation, the company is currently studying some alternative programme applications for prostate cancer treatment. The artificial neural network is being tested for its ability to predict biopsy outcome, pathological staging from biopsy results, nodal involvement, recurrence probability after prostatectomy, as well as comparative survival rates from surgical treatment versus radiation.

As a matter of fact, artificial neural networks were first developed for military applications, such as detection and identification of Soviet submarines. The Xaim company, based in Colorado Springs, has been analysing the potential of Artificial Intelligence for medical ends since 1997. As such, the company's name Xiam refers to eXperts in Artificial Intelligence Methods. For detailed information with regard to the Northwest Hospital's prostate cancer programme, you can pay a visit to the Web site of the Northwest Prostate Institute in Seattle, Washington.


Leslie Versweyveld

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