Over two million cancer patients per year may be saved from life-threatening Invasive Fungal Infections (IFI) with the aid of artificial intelligence that supports diagnosis and improves patient care.
IFI has a mortality rate of between 40-100 per cent and is currently difficult to detect because it presents similarly to pneumonia on chest scans. Treatments are limited and result in significant side effects and costs. In 2018, IFI affected around 2 million immune-compromised cancer patients globally , and hospitals spent tens of millions of dollars on antifungal medications.
Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah, consultant physician in infectious diseases and general medicine at Alfred Health was recently awarded a Monash Partners Medical Research Futures Fund (MRFF) TRIP Fellowship to improve care of patients with IFI by trialling an artificial intelligence platform technology, FungalAI™.
“Fungal infections are difficult to diagnose because they usually appear as a culture negative pneumonia with unusual radiographic findings on chest imaging, that are easy to miss by inexperienced radiologists or doctors,” said Dr Ananda-Rajah.
“The implementation of FungalAI™ will result in better, safer patient care and earlier radiographic diagnosis of fungal infections,” she added.
By integrating different types of data readily available in hospitals, FungalAI™ will help radiologists detect and diagnose IFI’s, making fungal surveillance more feasible, sustainable and cost-effective. The technology will also inform anti-fungal drug management programs, identify outbreaks of IFI, benchmark infection rates and patient outcomes between hospitals, and improve reporting in clinical trials.
FungalAI™ is currently undergoing real-world validation in a multicenter clinical trial involving seven major Australian sites: Alfred Health, Eastern Health, Monash Health, Monash Children’s Hospital, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Royal Adelaide Hospital and Westmead Hospital. FungalAI™ is also being integrated into an $1.38 million dollar MRFF funded clinical trial for acute leukaemia in elderly patients in collaboration with the Australasian Leukaemia Lymphoma Group.
The technology could also be used in parts of the world where there is a shortage of radiologists – including in India, China and South-East Asia.
Dr Ananda-Rajah firmly believes that harnessing artificial intelligence in patient care can have a drastically positive impact on cancer outcomes.
“FungalAI™ is just one of the exciting possibilities for human-machine partnerships in modern medicine,” said Dr Ananda-Rajah.