Google Health funds new AI study

Google Health has partnered with Northwestern Medicine to launch a new research study to explore if AI models could be used to reduce the time to diagnosis of breast cancer.

The partnership said that 10 to 15% of mammograms require additional diagnostic investigation, and they hope the AI technology can help prioritise the mammograms that need further review more quickly. The model has been developed to find the mammograms that show a higher likelihood of breast cancer, aiming for the patient to be seen the same day for follow up.

The Google-funded study builds on published research in 2020 conducted at Northwestern Medicine, Google Health and the NHS, which demonstrated AI models analysing de-identified screening mammograms.

Participants in this study will complete a routine mammogram, that will first be reviewed by the AI tool and then in the standard way by a physician. The review by the AI tool is said to take a few minutes to complete and the researchers noted it will not increase the amount of time patients would otherwise wait to have their mammograms reviewed.

The results of the AI tool may then be used to help prioritise the order in which mammograms are reviewed by the physician. If the AI tool determines the patient’s mammogram shows areas suspicious for cancer, the radiologist may conduct an immediate review of the exam. If the physician agrees, patients will be offered the opportunity for a same-day test to further evaluate for the presence of cancer, if scheduling availability allows.

Dr. Sarah Friedewald, an associate professor of radiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said: “With the use of artificial intelligence, we hope to expedite the process to diagnosis of breast cancer by identifying suspicious findings on patients’ screening examinations earlier than the standard of care.

“Finding cancer earlier means it can be smaller and easier to treat. We hope this will ultimately save lives.”