AI could revolutionise radiation therapy treatment for cancer patients

June 25, 2024 BY

Victorian researchers are working to develop an AI model that would fast track radiation therapy for patients with cancer. Photo: ISTOCK

Artificial intelligence (AI) may be the key to developing more precise treatment plans, and starting that treatment faster, for cancer patients who are prescribed radiation therapy.

Victorian researchers hope to develop an AI image prediction model that would allow for personalised radiation treatment plans to be created within hours, rather than the five to 10 days which is currently typical.

“These treatment plans take a long time to do,” lead researcher Dr Mathieu Gaudreault said.

“Basically, after diagnosis, the patient will be brought in to do a CT scan to image their anatomy, and the treatment plan will be based on their anatomy.

“This is a complicated, mathematical calculation.”

Almost 50 per cent of patients with cancer are prescribed radiation therapy and for them, this technology would significantly reduce the time between their diagnosis and treatment.

It is hoped the technology will also help to improve the quality of the treatment plans formulated for patients as well as the accuracy of the delivered radiation dose.

“We’re basing this technology off hundreds of real treatment plans that have been done in the past,” Dr Gaudreault said.

“Basically, the AI model trains and learns from these treatment plans and comes up with the best possible plan for the patient.”

Regional Victorians also stand to gain from the development of this technology, with it striving to grant them access to the same standard of care enjoyed by patients within metropolitan Melbourne and minimise the burden of additional visits to receive treatment.

Dr Gaudreault’s research is funded by a grant from Cancer Council Victoria’s Grants-in-Aid program, which has allowed him to purchase essential equipment.

“Without this funding, we wouldn’t have been able to start,” Dr Gaudreault said.

The Grants-in-Aid program is funded solely through donations and is awarded annually to innovative cancer research projects focused on the cause, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of all cancers.

Cancer Council Victoria’s chief executive, Todd Harper, thanked the public for their ongoing support of the grant program, which continues to play a role in rising cancer survival rates.

“Our grants are entirely donor funded and highlight just how important our supporters – the generous Victorian public – are in helping us work towards the next cancer breakthrough,” he said.