- Technology measures lymph node immune response
- Researchers at King’s College London tested 5,000 people, given by 345 patients
Scientists have developed artificial intelligence that can predict whether a patient’s breast cancer will spread.
The technology measures the immune response of lymph nodes, pea-sized pieces of tissue that help the body fight infection.
Tests on the lymph nodes of people with triple-negative breast cancer – an aggressive disease that is one of the most likely to spread or come back – found it could predict whether it was likely to metastasize .
Experts said the breakthrough could lead to more personalized treatment based on a woman’s individual risk profile, stopping the disease before it becomes incurable.
Researchers at King’s College London developed an AI model which they tested on more than 5,000 lymph nodes, donated by 345 patients.
Breast cancer cells usually spread first to the lymph nodes in the armpit, or armpit, which are closest to the tumor.
When this happens, patients are usually given more intensive treatment to try to prevent it from developing elsewhere.
But the scientists found that even when breast cancer cells hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes, their immune responses predicted the likelihood of the cancer spreading elsewhere.
They used a computer program to perform image analysis of the lymph nodes in cancer patients, which was then cross-checked with patient records and whether their breast cancer had spread.
Dr Anita Grigoriadis, who led the research at King’s College London’s Breast Cancer Now unit, said: ‘Using our AI, we looked at many images of lymph nodes and focused on specific patterns. .
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“What we’ve seen is that when we look at many lymph nodes from many patients, we’ve found that when we find these features, they seem to be a sign that the patient somehow has the ability to delay development. cancers in other organs for longer. only in those patients of whom we did not find these characteristics in the lymph nodes.
She added: “By demonstrating that changes in the lymph nodes can predict whether triple-negative breast cancer will spread, we have built on our growing knowledge of the important role the immune response can play in understanding the prognosis of a patient.”
About 15% of breast cancers are triple negative and there are currently few targeted treatments.
It is more common in women who have inherited an altered BRCA gene – made famous by Angelina Jolie – as well as in black, pre-menopausal women and women under the age of 40.
By publishing their findings in the Journal of Pathology, they hope to test the AI model in clinical trials.
Dr Simon Vincent, Director of Research, Support and Influencing at Breast Cancer Now, said: ‘Every year around 8,000 UK women are diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which is a more aggressive form breast cancer, often with poorer results.
“If through this research it is possible to provide women with more tailored treatment and care based on the likelihood of breast cancer spreading, it could help save lives and reduce stress and worry. We look forward to new findings to understand how this might work in practice for the benefit of women affected by this type of breast cancer.