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Digital Economy & Society

New tools for better breast cancer treatment

European experts have developed new tools that support more accurate breast surgery and breast cancer research.

The three-year EU-funded research project VPH-PRISM has completed its work. During this time, VPH-PRISM's researchers from Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States worked on advancing breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

One of the major results that came out of the project is an application to improve surgical planning and surgical outcomes.

Marking the skin

Scientific project manager Markus Harz (Fraunhofer MEVIS, Germany) says: "We looked into the most optimal way to support surgery within the operating theatre. We observed how surgeons marked certain areas or locations on the patient’s skin, imagining the structures and distances underneath. Together with the surgeons, we worked on a concept to make this process computer aided, and the result is a symbolic three-dimensional computer graphic that can be displayed, rotated, changed, and fused with a camera image on a mobile device, like the iPad."

Breast cancer database

Central to all efforts made in VPH-PRISM is the central data management system, consisting of a website to:

  • enter clinical data;
  • upload and download medical images from radiology and pathology;
  • enrich the images with localised information on diagnosis, and;
  • to document treatment decisions and outcome.

Dr. Harz: "The most intriguing capability is perhaps the integrated computation framework that lets image researchers run any data processing algorithms as soon as the data is uploaded - automatically and reliably. This includes advanced spatial referencing, lesion detection, feature extraction etc." 

The data management system thus evolved into a breast cancer research platform allowing researchers to collect and share data both manually as well as computationally. It allows for online data annotation as well as automated image analysis and integrated visual analytics across the collected data.

Result: Easier and more intuitive access to patient-related information and images for clinical and biomedical researchers, which facilitates breast cancer research. "The concepts, however, are general and can support any large-scale medical study, uniting the requirements of biomedical research and clinical studies", Dr. Harz adds.

The surgery planning application and VPH-PRISM’s unique database are just two of a range of results that have been produced by the project.

More information on the project website.