Artificial intelligence could pinpoint success of rectal cancer treatment based on routine MRI

DEC 06, 2021

The Department of Defense is gifting researchers at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) a medical research grant to study the use of their AI in guiding rectal cancer treatments, according to a statement released today.

The grant, totaling $755,000 and covering a span of three years, is being awarded by the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs for the purpose of examining the application of artificial intelligence in the MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of rectal cancer patients. Specifically, the goal is to help soundly direct physicians in determining whether a patient requires surgery as a part of their treatment.

“If our AI technology is successful, we could tell the clinician right up front—based on a routine MRI scan—if a patient will do well with only chemoradiation and then can be observed, without having this serious surgery,” explained lead researcher Satish Viswanath, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering who is leading the work as a member of the Center for Computational Imaging and Personalized Diagnostics (CCIPD).

Viswanath went on to explain that patients with rectal cancer are sometimes “overtreated” with unnecessary surgery because physicians do not have a method to reliably predict how patients might respond to other treatments beforehand. This is where CWRU’s AI research comes into play.

Viswanath will collaborate with professors from CWRU, as well as physicians from University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic and the VA Medical Center to retrospectively analyze the data from more than 2,000 patients with confirmed rectal cancer. Out of those cases, 450-500 of them will have radiomic tools applied to ascertain whether surgery could have been avoided.

“With this award, his team will be able to validate these tools in a multi-institutional setting with CWRUs various affiliate medical partners, setting the stage for prospective clinical trials,” said CCIPD Director Anant Madabhushi, the Donnell Institute Professor of Biomedical Engineering at CWRU.

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