Artificial Intelligence Could Have an Impact on Kidney Cancer Management

Dr. Alexander Kutikov, co-author of the studies and chief of the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology at Fox Chase
Dr. Alexander Kutikov, chief of the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology at Fox Chase

PHILADELPHIA (November 4, 2021)—As more radiographic, histopathologic, and genomic data are gathered and made accessible, it is only a matter of time until artificial intelligence (AI) becomes part of the regular clinical workflow for treating kidney cancer, according to a review article published by researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

“It is anticipated that AI will help physicians more accurately and efficiently diagnose renal masses and ultimately provide better care for patients,” said Matthew Lee, MD, MBA, a resident in the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology at Fox Chase and first author on the paper.

One of the keys to advancing the ability of AI and machine learning—the ability of computer programs to learn and adapt to new data—to help treat kidney cancer lies in the amount of data available and its quality. According to senior author Alexander Kutikov, MD, FACS, chief of the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology at Fox Chase, developing the ability to combine data sets across institutions will be integral to unlocking the power of AI.

“This needs a data set of high fidelity, robust data that is in the thousands,” he said. “One institution may not have that, so combining efforts from multiple institutions and having a way to share them is the trick to this.”

Fox Chase is home to one of the largest kidney cancer data sets in the world. Researchers, clinicians, and computer scientists at Fox Chase have spent more than two decades collaborating with other institutions to try and use AI to combine and leverage this data to answer outstanding clinical questions.

One such question explored in the review focused on whether a tumor’s malignancy could be reliably determined from a radiology scan. Up to 30% of tumors that are found via imaging turn out to be benign upon biopsy or resection. The goal, in this case, is to find a way to capitalize on AI’s pattern recognition capabilities so that malignancy can be accurately determined from the scan rather than requiring more invasive procedures.

Another similar question that AI could potentially help answer is whether the consistency and accuracy of tumor grade assessment can be improved. Research has shown that assessments of tumor grades by pathologists may be limited due to inter-observer variance. Furthermore, tumor grading often requires a biopsy, which is an invasive procedure.

Researchers want to leverage the power of pattern recognition in machine learning to find a way to minimize the amount of tissue needed to grade a tumor while making that grading more consistent.

The review authors feel that these capabilities may not be far off, given that AI tools already exist in other healthcare settings. For instance, in some emergency rooms, AI is being used to more quickly review CT scans. If a particularly concerning finding like a brain bleed is uncovered, the human radiologists are alerted to review that scan quickly, where seconds may make the difference between life and death. These tools are still in their infancy, but the authors predict that the power of AI will extend to urology and oncology sooner rather than later.

The review, “Kidney Cancer Management 3.0: Can Artificial Intelligence Make Us Better?,” was published in Current Opinion in Urology.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

For more information, call 888-369-2427