A two-year, $100,000 grant from the New York State Health Research Science Board will fund a partnership between Binghamton University and Lourdes Hospital to field test a computer software prototype that could improve early diagnosis of breast cancer.
In on-campus laboratory experiments, the software, developed by Walker Land, Jr., research professor in the Computer Science Department, has proven itself to be among the most accurate means available for determining whether non-palpable breast lesions are benign or malignant.
The grant, from the Wadsworth Center, New York State Health Research Science Board, Breast Cancer Research and Education Program, will allow Land and his research group to refine and test the software at Lourdes, where Fran Anderson, Lourdes research support coordinator, will be a co-investigator on the project.
“The main research question that is guiding this study is whether the software is able to correctly classify non-palpable breast lesions, missing no cancers, in a database that was not used to develop it,” Anderson said.
Lourdes will be helping to build a new database and providing expert radiologists to score the mammogram data that goes into it, Anderson said. Lourdes staff members will also provide input regarding clinical applicability of the software and related support as needed.
Land, whose mother died of breast cancer 40 years ago, has been working for years to refine the use of neural networks or computational intelligence to improve breast cancer screening techniques. More than 180,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed annually and about 45,000 die of the disease each year. Walker estimates that improved detection could save more 11,000 of those people each year.
Land’s software requires no new hardware, operates on an average PC and presents a cost-effective way for clinicians to maximize their time, he said.
“I am not trying to replace clinicians,” Land said. “I’m trying to provide a diagnostic tool that can help clinicians provide better patient care, which is a goal we all share,” he added.