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 Rutgers researchers develop automated robotic device for faster blood testing
14.06.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht Speech comprehension with a cochlear implant
04.06.2018 | Universität zu Lübeck

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Carbon nanotube optics provide optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing

19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

How to track and trace a protein: Nanosensors monitor intracellular deliveries

19.06.2018 | Life Sciences

New material for splitting water

19.06.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>