Australian researchers have developed a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool that can help to select the most suitable treatment for cancer patients.

The new tool DeepPT, developed by researchers at The Australian National University (ANU), predicts a patient’s messenger RNA (mRNA) profile.

This mRNA — essential for protein production — is also the key molecular information for personalised cancer medicine.

When combined with another tool called ENLIGHT, DeepPT was found to successfully predict a patient’s response to cancer therapies across multiple types of cancer, said lead author Dr Danh-Tai Hoang from ANU.

Dr Hoang said, “DeepPT was trained on over 5,500 patients across 16 prevalent cancer types, including breast, lung, head and neck, cervical and pancreatic cancers”.

The tool, detailed in the journal Nature Cancer, showed an improvement in patient response rate. The AI tool draws on microscopic pictures of patient tissue called histopathology images, also providing another key benefit for patients.

“This cuts down on delays in processing complex molecular data, which can take weeks,” Dr Hoang said, as any delay can affect patients with high-grade tumours who might require immediate treatment.

“In contrast, histopathology images are routinely available, cost-effective, and timely,” Hoang added.

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