Newcastle University led research uses AI to detect early signs of bowel cancer

A research trial that uses artificial intelligence to flag areas of concern that could lead to bowel cancer has come to a close.
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The trial, called COLO-DETECT, was led by South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University and involved nine other NHS Trusts across the country.

The trial was the largest of its kind in the world and used a kit called GI Genuis which flags up a green box on the screen if the artificial intelligence spots an area of concern.

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These areas of concern can often be missed by the human eye and once an area is flagged up, it can be investigated by medical professionals to remove any polyps, which can develop into cancer.

Prof Colin Rees has been conducting a study into detecting the signs of bowel cancer using AI with his team Jill Effard, research nurse, and Alexander Seager, research fellow (right). Prof Colin Rees has been conducting a study into detecting the signs of bowel cancer using AI with his team Jill Effard, research nurse, and Alexander Seager, research fellow (right).
Prof Colin Rees has been conducting a study into detecting the signs of bowel cancer using AI with his team Jill Effard, research nurse, and Alexander Seager, research fellow (right).

Consultant Professor Colin Rees, a Professor of Gastroenterology at Newcastle University, led the COLO-DETECT study alongside a team of colleagues at the NHS Trust.

He said: “The study uses artificial intelligence to look at the bowel as bowel cancer kills around 16,000 a year across the UK.

“The North East has some of the highest rates and unfortunately some of the poorest outcomes in the country.

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“We find bowel cancer through a colonoscopy, in which we look for cancer and pre-cancer so COLO-DETECT is about improving detection.

“We know that we miss things and that the human eye isn’t perfect so this is like having an extra pair of eyes.”

The AI technology flags up areas of concern with a green box on the screen. The AI technology flags up areas of concern with a green box on the screen.
The AI technology flags up areas of concern with a green box on the screen.

Jean Tyler, a retired careers advisor from South Shields, was one of the patients who took part in the trial.

Staff at the NHS Trust found an area of concern when examining Jean, which then led on to an early cancer diagnosis that was treatable.

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The 75-year-old, who lives with her husband Derek, commented: “They found an extra five polyps that wouldn’t have been found normally without this new technology.

“Although they weren’t cancerous, they did find an area of concern which turned out to reveal that I did have cancer.

“So through that procedure, the cancer was able to be taken away and I haven’t needed any further treatment.

Jean Tyler with Prof Colin Rees. Jean Tyler with Prof Colin Rees.
Jean Tyler with Prof Colin Rees.

“It has saved my life, had this not been available or I hadn’t taken part in the research then I could have been in a different place now.”

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COLO-DETECT is part of COLO-SPEED, which stands for Colorectal Cancer Screening Prevention Endoscopy and Early Diagnosis.

COLO-SPEED is backed by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, part of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Charity.

The charity has gifted £985,000 to help set up a platform that is used to support all the COLO group of studies.

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