Artificial intelligence is as good as world-leading uro-pathologists in diagnosing and grading prostate cancer, a study in the journal The Lancet Oncology suggests.
The AI-system has the potential to solve one of the bottlenecks in today's prostate cancer histopathology by providing more accurate diagnosis and better treatment decisions, says the study.
"Our results show that it is possible to train an AI-system to detect and grade prostate cancer on the same level as leading experts," said Martin Eklund, an associate professor at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.
"This has the potential to significantly reduce the workload of uro-pathologists and allow them to focus on the most difficult cases," Eklund said.
A problem in today's prostate pathology is that there is a certain degree of subjectivity in the assessments of the biopsies, researchers said.
Different pathologists can reach different conclusions even though they are studying the same samples, they said.
This leads to a clinical problem where the doctors must pick treatment based on ambiguous information.
The researchers see significant potential to use the AI-technology to increase the reproducibility of the pathological assessments.
To train and test the AI system, the researchers digitised over 8,000 biopsies taken from some 1,200 Swedish men in the ages of 50-69 to high-resolution images using digital pathology scanners.
About 6,600 of the samples were used to train the AI system to spot the difference between biopsies with or without cancer.
Its results were also compared against the assessments of 23 world-leading uro-pathologists.
The findings showed that the AI-system was almost near-perfect in determining whether a sample contained cancer or not, as well as in estimating the length of the cancer tumour in the biopsy.
When it comes to determining the severity of the prostate cancer -- the so-called Gleason score -- the AI system was on par with the international experts.
"When it comes to grading the severity of the prostate cancer, the AI is in the same range as international experts, which is very impressive, and when it comes to diagnostics, to determine whether or not it is cancer, the AI is simply outstanding," said Lars Egevad, a professor at Karolinska Institutet.
The initial findings are promising but more validation is needed before the AI system may be rolled out broadly in clinical practice, according to the researchers.
(With inpust from PTI)