Hardly a day goes by without Al hitting the headlines, with concern that Al will take over the need for humans to do anything in the future as we move towards a ‘Space Odyssey’ future. However all is not doom and gloom and certainly, where Al is tailored within a specific set of parameters, Al is proving to be an excellent resource.

Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the NHS, Steve Barclay has announced that the NHS will use Al to analyse chest x-rays to speed up the diagnosis of lung cancer.

A record 7.4 million people are on waiting lists in England, with 4 in 5 of those waiting for scans and other outpatient appointments. Using Al in the diagnostic process, will hopefully reduce some of the many pressures on NHS staff.

However, this recent announcement has focused on lung cancer, what about Mesothelioma?

Since 2018, Scientists at The University of Glasgow and Canon Medical Research Europe have piloted Al within their computer software, detecting and measuring the volume of Mesothelioma tumours more effectively than traditional methods.

The Al was programmed by inputting more than 100 mesothelioma CT scans, to ‘learn’ the patterns of the disease from the scans. Each CT scan consisted of 225 individual images; therefore the Al system received a huge amount of information to learn from.

With this ‘knowledge’ the Al can quickly identify similar patterns on a current patient’s CT scans. The use of Al eliminates any risk of human error and can recognise subtle changes that are perhaps invisible to the human eye.

It can take a human around 2.5 hours to review one CT scan to measure tumour volumes and as such, these measurements are not routinely carried out due to the time involved. Crucially however, the results from the Glasgow study have shown that higher baseline tumour volumes are associated with shorter survival rates.

Mesothelioma is a complex cancer, making it difficult to measure changes, however by programming Al to identify the smallest of changes in tumour size, it is hoped that patients could be quickly referred onto clinical trials of new treatment.

Whilst we as humans might feel cautious about being replaced by Al, it is difficult not to see a future with some sort of combination between human and Al involvement, especially when the results from initial research are so encouraging.