News / Health

Computers Evaluate Cancer Biopsies

System analyzes with keener eye than human pathologists

This image shows breast cancer images adjacent to matching images that have been automatically labeled by image processing software.
This image shows breast cancer images adjacent to matching images that have been automatically labeled by image processing software.

Multimedia

Audio
Art Chimes

Cancer treatment might have just taken a big leap into the computer age. Stanford University researchers are reporting significant success in training computers to analyze microscope slides of breast cancer biopsies with a keener eye than any human pathologist.

Since the early 20th century, pathologists have been squinting into microscopes, looking for a handful of features in biopsied tumor samples that enable them to classify how aggressive the cancer is.

That information helps doctors decide how to treat a patient.

Today, armed with sophisticated software, powerful computers are getting quite skilled at pattern recognition. Identifying faces, for example. The Stanford researchers thought computers might be able to learn to evaluate cancer biopsies, too.

To do that, Daphne Koller and her colleagues started with a set of biopsy slides that are used to train pathologists. The slides were scanned into the computer, which measured not just the handful of features a human pathologist might review, but thousands of characteristics on each image.

"And we plugged it into a machine-learning algorithm that looked at survival data," she said, "and tried to figure out which of those features were good features in terms of survival, which were bad features, and which were not relevant at all."

In fact, Koller says, the system identified previously unrecognized features on the biopsy slides that help predict how aggressive the cancer will be.

"It turned out that some of the most significant features were in parts of the tumor that pathologists don't look at at all right now."

After the training phase, "C-Path" (Computational Pathologist) evaluated a second set of pathology slides, which came from a different hospital and which were medically and demographically different from the training group. It actually did better than human pathologists, although Koller stresses that C-Path is not designed to replace doctors looking through microscopes.

She says the computerized system could have its biggest impact in resource-poor settings - in developing countries, for example - where skilled pathologists are in short supply.

"Our technology can be easily applied even over the Web, where a local physician extracts a sample and puts it on a slide and scans it into a computer and sends it over the net, and out comes a prediction about survival and ultimately other aspects of the sample that can help guide treatment."

Koller and her colleagues describe the computerized pathologist system in Science Translational Medicine. They're currently working to extend the computerized pathology system to other cancers. It is still some years away from use in patient treatment.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid