PICTURES project: predicting disease with artificial intelligence

Author: Ally Hume
Posted: 10 Dec 2019 | 11:41

EPCC is part of a £4.4 million project to turn a database of millions of clinical images into a powerful research tool to help tackle health conditions including lung cancer and dementia.

Each year millions of clinical images such as X-rays, CT, MRI, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, and retinal images are generated by the NHS in Scotland and stored in the national imaging database. In addition to containing important clinical information, these images also potentially contain a great deal of information about the health of the individual which is not currently made use of in health care.

The PICTURES project will make use of the approximately 30 million NHS images collected since 2006, employing artificial intelligence (AI) to search for ‘warning signs’ in the images which predict the development of diseases. This will allow doctors in the future to make use of this information in routine care, greatly enhancing the clinical utility of routine scans.

The project has been funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners to develop the technology that will unlock the huge additional potential of these images.

“Clinical images are now core diagnostic technologies. These images can support many important areas of research to improve any or all diagnosis, monitoring of disease progression and response to treatment. Access to the vast bank of ‘real world’ images can offer a huge boost to research into major diseases and conditions, and that is what we are looking to develop through the PICTURES study, initially using lung cancer and dementia as exemplar projects.” Dr Emily Jefferson, Director of the Health Informatics Centre, University of Dundee

One of these exemplar projects will develop a method to detect warning signs of coronary artery disease and lung cancer using AI to check patients’ CT chest scans. This project will work in partnership with international experts from an industry partner, Aidence, to convert the research into a clinical tool which can be used to support doctors on the front line in the NHS.

“It is very exciting to be able to develop AI tools to enhance the diagnostic potential of CT scans in the chest and MRI scans of the brain, which currently don’t routinely assess cardiac or dementia risk in these patients. By having these tools provide information to clinicians, earlier treatment and management changes will improve health outcomes in the future.” Professor Edwin Van Beek, University of Edinburgh

The project follows on from previous work to provide access to these images through the Scottish National Safe Haven that is expected to go live later this year. The PICTURES project enables us to carry out the research that will continue to enhance this service over the next five years.

PICTURES is a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Dundee University, Abertay University and NHS Scotland.

Image: ChooChin/Getty Images

Author

Ally Hume, EPCC