Space technology helping to fight bowel cancer

Thanks to a £1 million grant, space technology could improve the early detection and diagnosis of bowel cancer in a trial to be carried out at UCH.

The revolutionary artificial intelligence (AI) system identifies and characterises polyps by analysing live colonoscopy video, meaning doctors can make immediate decisions regarding treatment and patients can receive the results of their scan straight away instead of waiting weeks.

Funded by the UK Space Agency, the project has already gained media interest, with a team from BBC Breakfast filming at UCLH last week.

The Early diAgnosis Real-Time Healthcare System for Cancer (EARTH SCAN) project will use secure, high-speed satellite communications and software to create a cloud-based AI system that can support doctors in their decision making. Through the use of space technology, the system can be deployed anywhere on earth enabling patients to receive a consistently high level of care.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the UK and detecting it using traditional colonoscopy methods can be challenging for doctors. Early diagnosis can mean a survival rate of 90 per cent.

A clinical trial of the EARTH SCAN project at University College Hospital (UCH) is planned in the next year. Funding was secured by Odin Vision, a UCL spin-out company.

Laurence Lovat, honorary consultant gastroenterologist at UCLH and clinical director of WEISS at UCL, said: "The AI system aims to support clinicians in the early detection and diagnosis of cancerous polyps. Earlier intervention has a vital impact on improved survival rates for bowel cancer patients and may save many lives.”

The project is a collaboration between Odin Vision, University College London (UCL) and University College London Hospital (UCLH) with support from Avanti Communications and SEHTA. Odin Vision is a UCL spin-out supported through UCLB’s Portico Ventures programme.