New AI Technology Used to Track Asbestos Cancer Tumours
Patients receiving treatment for rare cancers linked to asbestos are now being assessed with artificial intelligence (AI) in a pilot project.
Scotland has the highest incidence of mesothelioma, a malignant tumour caused by inhaled asbestos fibres, in the world. This is in part due to a traditional heavy industry and limited asbestos risk assessments.
Researchers have now created a prototype AI system that is able to recognise mesothelioma tumours. It is hoped that this technology could speed up clinical trials of new treatments.
Chemotherapy does not work effectively on mesothelioma as it does on other cancers. Due to the way the tumours grow it is hard to monitor if the treatments are working. Whereas most cancers are a sphere and are relatively easy to measure, mesothelioma grows almost like an orange peel. Prof Kevin Blyth who runs a specialist clinic for mesothelioma patients said this type of cancer grows almost like an orange peel, forming a ring around the lung. For that reason, it is hard to measure and monitor changes.
The AI technology automated the measurements of mesotheliomas, saving time and enabling more accurate results. It is thought that automating these measurements will open the way for clinical trials of new treatments.
The Importance of Asbestos Risk Assessments
Before the dangers of asbestos were fully known, and even sometime after they were, asbestos assessments were not even considered during building work. Due to this, there are over 5000 asbestos-related disease deaths per year including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
Although the dangers of asbestos are better understood now, and the use of the material has been banned in new buildings, there are still buildings out there that do contain this potentially lethal material. For that reason it is imperative to conduct an asbestos risk assessment before conducting any work that may disturb the material.