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NCI has awarded an $8 million grant
to three universities to develop AI tools
to enhance cancer treatment

NCI awards universities $8 million grant for AI imaging collaboration

by John Fischer , Staff Reporter
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded a five-year $8 million grant to three U.S. universities for the development of a test bed involving the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence, for the analysis of radiology and pathology images to better enhance cancer treatment.

Researchers from Stony Brook University on Long Island, Emory University in Georgia, and the University of Arkansas will work together to develop datasets and tools to support precision medicine research projects that aim to classify patients into specialized cohorts based on susceptibility to particular diseases, the prognosis of the diseases they may develop and their response to a specific treatment.

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“Pathology is, of course, a crucial method in diagnosing cancer patients,” Dr. Joel Saltz, Cherith professor and founding chair for the department of biomedical informatics at Stony Brook and one of the researchers involved in the project, told HCB News. “Digital pathology promises to unlock information that was previously hidden away in glass slides. There are a variety of machine learning and artificial intelligence methods that can be used to accomplish this. One area of focus for us is to develop ways to analyze images to predict response to immune cancer therapy.”

The project will build upon and extend the services of The Cancer Imaging Archive (TCIA), which is currently limited by the fact that its data are primarily on radiology imaging, with plans to expand its resources for integrative image-omics studies, enhance capacity to acquire high-quality data collections, add resources to support validation studies, and research reproducibility and increase community engagement.

To do this, researchers will utilize data analytics to identify tumors' cell nuclei and other important matters in cancer treatment, and store all data. In addition, the award and work involved in the project will go toward the development of a national academic program in digital pathology at Stony Brook.

NCI has collaborated in a variety of projects for the enhancement of cancer research, including a study last month comparing 3-D and 2-D mammography in the treatment of breast cancer.

The universities have engaged in collaborations for research and health care purposes too, with Emory University entering a partnership in September with Signet Real Estate Group for the delivery of turnkey solutions in the management of the university’s new proton therapy center.

Stony Brook also recently partnered with Mount Sinai Health System in August for the development of research, academic programs and clinical initiatives.

Saltz says that though the project is a novel venture, it is also a continuation of the interests and goals of Stony Brook researchers.

“At Stony Brook, we are dedicated to developing precision medicine based on integration of radiology, pathology and molecular/genetic/genomic and clinical data,” he said. “The Stony Brook cancer program focuses both on development of individual imaging analysis/artificial intelligence methods, and ways of combining these complementary data sets to develop methods to guide patient treatment.”

The $8 million will be divided roughly among all three universities, with Stony Brook slated to receive more than $2.5 million, approximately one-third of the grant.

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