Research to improve the diagnosis of cancer patients

Researchers will apply a system that uses the interaction paradigm of Virtual Reality to improve the understanding of CT scan images.Pedro Morillo using the new tool

Coordinated by researcher Pedro Morillo from the IRTIC (Computer Department of Valencia University), the study attempts to solve one of the challenges of the RIS3CV strategy (Research and Innovation Smart Specialization Strategy) proposed by the Valencian Government through the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI).

The scientific basis of this technological solution consists of applying the paradigm of Virtual Reality to view the CT scan image and thus make it easier to understand for doctors.

Currently, in order to diagnose an oncologic patient, they are subjected to a CT scan, among other tests. From the image generated by the CT scan, the surgical specialists assess surgical viability.

This method of visualisation makes it very hard to spatially understand the information on the CT scan, making its analysis a laborious task which generates an error rate of over 20%. In other words, of every 100 patients diagnosed as “operable”, at least 20 turn out not to be, after seeing the location and anatomy of the real tumour during surgery.

The error in diagnosing surgical viability entails a double harm for the patient. In first place, an unnecessary surgical procedure with everything this entails: anaesthesia, post-surgery recovery, etc. Secondly, a delay of the most appropriate treatment.

The solution proposed in the project consists of applying the interaction paradigm of Virtual Reality to improve the understanding of the CT scan image, which will entail an improvement of the current success rate as well as a reduction in economic and temporal costs. This new method of visualisation will not only be compatible with CT scan images, but also with those processed in 3D, so it may supplement the current working methodology without losing any of the options that are available today.

The new system will allow doctors to see the information from tests as if they directly saw the inside of a patient, as well as offering tools that will make it possible to interact with said information.

In order to come up with the technological solution, experiment with it and validate it, the project included the support and collaboration of the team of Luis Sabater (Surgery Department of Valencia University), the Head of the Hepato-Bilio-Pancreatic Surgery of Valencia’s Hospital Clínico Universitario and member of Scientific Management at INCLIVA. Said team is a pioneer in the use of 3D models of real tumours and livers for the planning of extreme oncologic surgeries.

In order to attain financing, the team initially took part in the call for “Valuation and Transfer of research results” of the AVI for 2020. According to Pedro Morillo, “this project is a small sample of the transfer capabilities of this Valencian innovation system”. Morillo has stressed the great amount of synergies that are being created among the Research Institutes and Valencian industrial tissue thanks to the creation of the challenges established by the Strategic Committees in Innovation created at the AVI.