Northampton General Hospital leads the way with artificial intelligence in UK-first for cancer patients

Revolutionary new technology has been developed for NGH using knowledge-based planning which determines the best treatment plan for patients

Sunday, 9th February 2020, 5:10 pm
Updated Monday, 10th February 2020, 10:33 am
Dr Craig Knighton looks at a treatment plan in progress

Radiotherapy patients at Northampton General Hospital are the first in the UK to be benefitting from the use of artificial intelligence for treating head and neck cancer.

This software learns how treatment plans have been generated for up to a hundred previous patients treated at NGH.

It then predicts the best possible plan for a new patients with head and neck cancer.

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The team is now working on 12 cases in Northampton where the artificial intelligence software is being used

An individualised plan is then made for the patient using the model with minimal human interaction.

Doctor Craig Knighton, clinical director of oncology and hematology, described how the new technology will benefit patients.

He said: “We are really excited to be the first hospital in the country to be using this technology for patients with head and neck cancer, and our gynecological patients.

"Head and neck cancers are a particularly complex area to treat due to the proximity of radiosensitive organs like the face, spinal cord and brainstem."

This new way of working aims to provide patients with the best treatment plan for their needs.

It also helps to save time for clinicians and medical physics staff, who traditionally would have spent time analysing patient scans to create the final treatment plan that satisfies the many rules for a plan.

He added: “Using this new technology gives our clinicians instant access to the information stored in previous treatment plans, to generate high quality treatment plans in a reduced time frame. This will allow shorter waiting times and increased numbers of patients treated.

“It has taken a lot of work from the radiotherapy physics teams at NGH and [technology teams from] Varian over four years to get this model ready to be used in practice.

"It cements the reputation of radiotherapy at NGH being amongst the most advanced and dynamic in the country and we are delighted to see it now being used to help with patient care.”

This time saving in the planning process allows the service to be more efficient.

As well as saving time, the technology will allow for a more standardised approach to treatment as results will be more consistent across the department.

Future work involves creating a supermodel across different radiotherapy departments in the country to allow a standardised approach nationally.

The new software has already been used to plan the treatment of 12 patients