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VA researchers working on artificial intelligence that can predict prostate cancer

Department of Veterans Affairs researchers at five medical centers are working together to develop an artificial intelligence algorithm that can predict aggressive prostate cancer. 

The new research study began July 1, expanding to 14 sites. 

It will analyze data from more than 5,000 veterans who were diagnosed with high-risk prostate cancer and have undergone initial treatment. 

The method is using diagnostic images like MRIs, high resolution scans of prostate biopsies and variables like income and geographic location to recognize patterns that are indicative of aggressive prostate cancer. 

Study investigators are also leveraging cloud storage, computing infrastructure, and databases unique to its programs, including the Million Veteran Program and the Prostate Cancer Foundation-VA partnership.

A radiologist compares a CT scan to a choline C-11 PET scan of a patient with recurrent prostate cancer

Radiologist Val J. Lowe, director of the cancer imaging program at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, compares a CT scan to a choline C-11 PET scan of a patient with recurrent prostate cancer at the Mayo Clinic medical center in Rochester, Minnesota, on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013. (Photographer: Ariana Lindquist/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


“A digital repository for data will allow for development, testing and validation of prognostic classifiers that could positively impact clinical management of veterans with high-risk prostate cancer,” Dr. Matthew Rettig, chief of oncology and hematology at the Greater Los Angeles VA Medical Center and co-principal investigator for the study, said. “The infrastructure developed by this research will serve as a valuable hub for future discovery and … serve as a roadmap to develop similar AI algorithms for other cancers, such as lung cancer and even non-cancerous diseases that commonly affect our veterans.”

The agency notes that prostate cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer among U.S. veterans and that it makes up 30% of new cancer diagnoses in the department.

Approximately one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime.  

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