Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pooled data towards cervical cancer cure

02.12.2008
Every year, tens of thousands of women die in the EU from cervical cancer because the disease is not detected and treated at an early enough stage. A multidisciplinary European research effort plans to change that.

Half of all the 60,000 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Europe this year will prove to be incurable and result in the patient’s death, and a similar percentage of the hundreds of thousands of women diagnosed worldwide will also die.

To make any impact on these statistics, medical researchers will need access to huge amounts of data on cervical cancer victims, the sort of data collected and analysed in what medical professionals call Association Studies.

Thanks to the work of the 2008 Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Harald zur Hausen, we know that cervical cancer is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). But not every woman infected with the virus develops the disease, while some of those who do develop it respond to treatment, and others do not. There is also the complication that there are many different variants of HPV, and not all of them cause cancer.

To try and understand these discrepancies in different patients, and what the root causes are, it is necessary to examine as much information as possible about as many patients as possible to try and identify common factors. Association Studies do this by studying clinical data from hospital tests, lifestyle data such as eating, smoking and sexual habits and genetic data. They also compare the data with that from healthy patients not infected by the virus.

Forging links between hospitals

Until now, these tests have generally been undertaken at individual clinics and medical centres where researchers only had access to data concerning tens or perhaps hundreds of patients. The EU-funded ASSIST project was set up to forge technological links between leading medical centres specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer, to allow them to share data and thus create a much larger data repository.

Says project coordinator Professor Pericles Mitkas of the Centre for Research and Technology – Hellas, Informatics and Telematics Institute, Thessaloniki: “What we are trying to do is to allow medical researchers working in specialist hospitals and medical centres to use each others’ data, and combine the data into a bigger pool to work with.”

While this may sound logical and easy, in practise it is not. “The problem is, each hospital uses different formats, different rules for storing data, even for exactly the same tests. Even within hospitals, each doctor might have his or her own way of doing things,” says Mitkas.

The challenge is primarily an IT one, but it requires doctors from various disciplines – researchers, microbiologists and geneticists at the different centres – to agree to adopt common practices for the system to work.

Agreeing on a common terminology

“Perhaps the greatest achievement of the project to date has been to get medical doctors, molecular biologists and computer scientists sitting around a table and talking to each other, and finally understanding each other’s technical language,” says Mitkas.

There are three hospitals involved in the initial stage of the project, from Greece, Germany and Belgium. Mitkas says it was also an achievement to get the doctors from these institutions to agree to “common terminology, common ground, and a common view on how to represent data and access it.”

With these agreements in place, the team developed a prototype software platform which ensures researchers get data reported back to them in a similar format and in the exact way in which it was requested. “We do this by semantic representation, which means we assign an interpretation to each value to help the computer understand what each value refers to,” Mitkas explains.

“We also facilitate interpretation of subjective values like ‘high risk’ and ‘low risk’, ‘serious cases’ and ‘non-serious cases’, and use inferencing techniques which are based on a set of medical rules provided by doctors to tell the computer which results are more valid than others. Biopsy results, for example, are more conclusive than Pap test results and may point to a pre-cancer stage that a Pap test did not reveal.”

Greatly expanded data pool

Working with the three hospitals, the ASSIST prototype platform now allows researchers access to thousands of patients’ records at the gynaecology and obstetrics departments of the three hospitals, including the results of annual tests on all women, not just those infected.

“We add extra functionality as we go along, but at least the doctors now have something to work with and evaluate,” says Mitkas.

The project recently hosted a conference where the platform was introduced to some of the leading cervical cancer specialists from around Europe, and they were so impressed that several of them have agreed to add their data to the ASSIST pool.

In the future, the work done on this project can be applied to other types of cancer, with just some adjustments being needed to the software to cope with different data sets, Mitkas suggests. And there is no reason why the platform cannot be used with other types of disease such as cardiovascular, he says.

“Further down the line, understanding the path to the disease and the factors that affect it will help individual doctors diagnose it earlier, prevent it by giving directions to their patients, and developing drugs or procedures that will cure the disease. But ASSIST is primarily a tool for medical researchers, and the results of their research will benefit all women,” Mitkas concludes.

Christian Nielsen | alfa
Further information:
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults
http://cordis.europa.eu/ictresults/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/90235

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht First transcatheter implant for diastolic heart failure successful
16.11.2017 | The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

nachricht Theranostic nanoparticles for tracking and monitoring disease state
13.11.2017 | SLAS (Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening)

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

Less is more to produce top-notch 2D materials

20.11.2017 | Materials Sciences

Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>