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Precision Driven Health partners with MoleMap

Precision Driven Health partners with MoleMap in AI project to improve skin cancer detection

18/11/2019


Precision Driven Health (PDH), New Zealand's leading health data research initiative, has today announced it is working with MoleMap on its use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the early detection of skin cancer.

PDH Chief Executive Dr Kevin Ross says the $2 million research project will enhance the AI algorithm that MoleMap has developed to differentiate cancerous skin lesions from benign lesions.

"Every year nearly 400 New Zealanders die from skin cancer and studies indicate that early detection could have greatly improved the chance of survival in the majority of cases," Dr Ross says.

"This project has the potential to increase access to skin checks by extending the technology for use at the primary care and general practitioner level, and thereby enabling more New Zealanders access to early detection for skin cancer."

MoleMap Chief Technology Officer Adrian Bowling says the PDH partnership builds on initial research developed with IBM Research in Melbourne on a small subset of data.

"The partnership with PDH will provide us with access to a larger, wider set of data as we continue to work with experts at the University of Otago in Dunedin, and Monash University in Melbourne, to enhance this ground-breaking technology," Mr Bowling says.

Computer-based systems for recognising malignant moles have been developed over the past 20 years but have had limited uptake. With the advent of AI, combined with large databases and "deep learning" algorithms, new opportunities for the use of these technologies can be explored.

"Published studies and our own research suggest that it is possible for a system-based AI to be at least as good as dermatologists in differentiating cancerous lesions from benign lesions," Mr Bowling says.

The research project will include clinical trials in New Zealand and Australia once the algorithm has been enhanced. As essential part of the research is to ensure that the unique population of Aotearoa is taken into account and all skin types will be tested.

Dr Ross says that, as with all PDH projects, a key focus is applying new techniques in data science to advance Māori health outcomes.

"Māori do not have a high incidence of melanoma; however, there is a high mortality rate for those who have melanoma. This has generally been seen as a result of Māori, like many other New Zealanders, presenting with later stage melanoma when it is difficult to cure. Being able to better detect melanoma in Māori could help decrease this mortality risk and save lives."

ends

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