Brain tumours remain an important cause of mortality and afflict a large percentage of the European population. In children over one year of age, brain tumours are the most common solid malignancies that cause disease-related death.
A brain tumour diagnosis usually involves using Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS), a non-invasive technique, to determine the tissue biochemical composition of a tumour. But such scans only achieve 60-90% accuracy, depending on the tumour type and grade.
Diagnosing a tumour, therefore, also requires taking a surgical biopsy, which can be potentially deadly for patients. For tumours that evolve slowly - mainly in children - repeated biopsies are often needed, but are not advisable.
Now, research teams from Belgium, Italy, Spain and the UK, working together in HealthAgents - a â¬4.5 initiative - hope that with their software, biopsies will no longer be necessary.
They will develop a database in which hi-tech scans, conducted on patients in hospitals from all around Europe, may be stored and classified. Using pattern recognition techniques, the system will enable doctors to compare the scan results with those from similar cases from other hospitals. The software will then suggest a series of diagnoses, leaving the doctor to choose the best type of treatment.
According to Dr Andrew Peet, clinical advisor to HealthAgents, the project gives doctors access to a range of securely held results that would simply not have been available previously. "The consortium encompasses a wide range of talent from universities, companies and hospitals. The expertise of the consortium will provide the foundations for the first EU grid for brain tumour diagnosis and prognosis. We will profit from a world-class data exchange network to address one of the most pernicious diseases of our time," he said.
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