21 March 2019

Artificial intelligence set to aid cancer diagnoses

Artificial intelligence could be used to review – and possibly one day even make – cancer diagnoses if a team of WA researchers is successful in training a specialised computer to detect abnormalities in lymph nodes.

As part of a bold new research project being led by PathWest anatomical pathologist Jeremy Parry, a computer capable of “deep learning” will initially be taught to detect changes in lymph nodes that may or may not be malignant, with later refinements potentially helping it to discern malignant from benign changes.

Dr Parry, in collaboration with experts in artificial intelligence from Murdoch University’s College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education, says the computer will be taught using digitised whole-slide scans of lymph node tissue collected from Western Australian patient samples.

He hopes that through the process of deep learning – in which the computer learns to recognise patterns within data it has already analysed – it might eventually be able to detect nuanced early indicators of cancer.

Dr Parry’s study is one of 10 projects awarded funding in the latest round of the Department of Health-funded Research Translation Projects (RTP) program.

He says the aim of his project is not to replace pathologists in analysing samples, but to assist in the review and validation of their findings.

In a second part of the project, Dr Parry and his team will assess the value of using digitised whole-slide scans of tissue samples across the WA health system.

The present system for examining tissue samples involves putting them on glass slides so that they can be viewed under a microscope.

“If we need a second opinion we must physically transport the slide to wherever the person is, which could be at another hospital – or even in another state,” Dr Parry explained.

“However if we take the sample on the slide and then scan it using our digital whole-slide pathology scanner, we have access to an image that we can send anywhere in the world and which can be viewed instantaneously.”

Dr Parry says that digitisation would add an extra step to the processing of these samples, but has potential benefits which include improved flexibility for information sharing, reduced time and cost of transporting slides and improved storage and preservation of images.

The RTP program, now in its twelfth year, is designed to encourage research and the translation of research outcomes into effective healthcare policy and practice.

The RTP program highlights how research can improve patient outcomes yet at the same time enhance efficiency and cost effectiveness in the public health system.

The full list of RTP 2018 recipients are:

Coordinating Principal Investigator (CPI)


CPI Institution

Project Title

A/Professor Glenn Arendts



People dying of and with dementia: using an emergency department visit as a positive opportunity for palliative dementia care

Clin A/Professor Susan Benson


West Australian SMART Application of Blood culture Initiative (WASABI): improving the management of patients with serious infection and reducing low value care

Dr Andrew Davies

Dr Andrew Davies

Pilot study of a mobile Homeless Outreach Dual Diagnosis Service (HODDS)

Professor Graham Hall

Telethon Kids

Success in the operating theatre: multidisciplinary pre-operative briefings for efficiency, patient safety and staff engagement

A/Professor Tim Inglis


Sepsis FASTtrack; streamlining the diagnosis and management of sepsis 

Professor Alexander John


The clinical and economic benefits of early use of clozapine in first-episode schizophrenia

Dr Andrew Martin

Telethon Kids on behalf of CCHR UWA

FeBRILe3 - Fever, Blood cultures and Readiness for discharge in Infants Less than 3 months old

Dr George O'Neil

Australian Medical Procedures Research Foundation

Reducing hospital admission costs through the development of antibiotic infusion systems for the home and hospital

Dr Jeremy Parry


Application of deep-learning artificial intelligence algorithms to help diagnose cancer in lymph nodes

Dr Rachel Skoss

Telethon Kids on behalf of CCHR UWA

Health service use for people with disability living in supported accommodation - an intervention to improve health literacy in disability service organisations


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