Researchers in China have developed a learning artificial intelligence (AI) system which can diagnose and identify cancerous prostate samples as accurately as any pathologist.
This holds out the possibility of streamlining and eliminating variation in the process of cancer diagnosis. It may also help overcome any local shortage of trained pathologists.
In the longer term it may lead to automated or partially-automated prostate cancer diagnosis.
Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer, with around 1.1 million diagnoses ever year.
Confirmation of the diagnosis normally requires a biopsy sample, which is then examined by a pathologist.
Now an artificial intelligence learning system, presented at the European Association of Urology Congress in Copenhagen, has shown similar levels of accuracy to a human pathologist.
In addition, the software can accurately classify the level of malignancy of the cancer, so eliminating the variability which can creep into human diagnosis.
The researchers took 918 prostate whole mount pathology section samples from 283 patients, and ran these through the analysis system, with the software gradually learning and improving diagnosis.
These pathology images were subdivided into 40,000 smaller samples; 30,000 of these samples were used to ‘train’ the software, the remaining 10,000 were used to test accuracy.
The results showed an accurate diagnosis in 99.38 per cent of cases (using a human pathologist as a ‘gold standard’), which is effectively as accurate as the human pathologist.