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IBM goes down under to refine image-based skin cancer algorithms

por Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | June 29, 2016
Health IT Rad Oncology
By analyzing dermatological images of skin lesions with cognitive technology, IBM and Melanoma Institute Australia are hoping to identify specific clinical patterns in the early stages of melanoma in order to reduce unnecessary biopsies and improve cancer care.

From its lab in Australia, IBM Research will conduct retrospective analysis on de-identified data pertaining to over one million images from 9,000 Australian and New Zealand patients, as well as text-based clinical notes, in order to fine-tune its machine learning algorithms.

Melanoma Institute Australia operates the world's largest melanoma research and treatment facility, and controls the largest melanoma research database in the world.

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The partnership is expected to build upon IBM's existing research agreement with MoleMap, which uses advanced visual analytics to analyze more than 40,000 data sets including images and text.

Early diagnosis is critical in the fight against skin cancer, and IBM's research will aim at a variety of types including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma — the goal will be to gain the same level of insight taken from dermoscopy images and derive it from lower resolution clinical images.

"Diagnosing melanoma with the naked eye is only about 60 percent accurate, but dermoscopy can list that to over 80 percent," said professor Graham Mann, research director at Melanoma Institute Australia, in a statement. "Research using automated analysis of images could provide the next gain in accuracy, especially where dermoscopy is hard to access."

Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by age 70, giving the country one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Early detection is crucial in saving lives.

"This initiative could inform future research and, potentially, the development of offerings that could have enormous implications for both the Australian public and the health system," said Dr. Joanna Batstone, vice president and lab director of IBM Research.

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