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Student Develops Software To Support Treatment Decisions For Prostate Cancer Patients

A student project at () in Scotland has resulted in the creation of new software which can be used by medical staff to support treatment decisions for patients.

Alin Rohnean (22), who graduated from the University’s School of Computing Science and Digital Media last year, undertook the project during his final year of study in Aberdeen.

His research, entitled ‘Data Modelling and Prediction Tools for Prostate Cancer’, developed a system which uses data modelling and software prediction tools to create an environment which enables doctors and patients to understand and select the treatment options available. Medical professionals can collect specific data on individuals acknowledging the effect of each possible treatment on ‘Quality of Life’ outcomes.

The system combines two applications, one of which is used to define the data needed to represent a case, facilitates data collection and generates a model which represents the key relationships in the data. With the data model in place, it is then possible to predict patient outcomes. The second application uses this information to determine the probabilities of various outcomes which can be displayed on a computer monitor.

Originally from Romania, Alin came to the UK to study in 2009 and graduated with a First Class BSc (Hons) Computer Science Degree last July after obtaining distinctions for the highest academic achievement in every stage of his course. He was also recognised by ScotlandIS, the trade body for Scotland’s ICT industry, winning Young Software Engineer of the Year 2012 for his research.

The talented student worked directly with staff and patients at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary (ARI) to create the system, collect patient data, and develop the software tool.

Alin explains:

“The software system permits multiple scenarios to be explored depending on how certain variables in the model change. This allows patients to look at ‘what if’ factors over the course of their treatment. Once the options for treatments are visualised on screen using the software, it also provides a basis for the patient and clinician to discuss their choices.”

The project built on an existing collaboration between urologists from ARI and research done by Professor John McCall and Olivier Regnier-Coudert at RGU’s Institute for Innovation, Design and Sustainability Research (IDEAS).

Professor McCall comments:

“Prostate cancer is now the second largest cause of death in the male population. As the disease mainly affects elderly men, the decision to conduct a radical prostatectomy which is a serious operation, depends crucially on the stage of the disease.

“My research team has worked to create ‘Bayesian Network’ models of key variables from a large collection of patient data supplied by the British Association of Urological Surgeons. These represent the probabilistic relationships between diseases and symptoms. Given this data, the system can then be used to compute the probabilities and outcomes of different treatment paths.

“The models have outperformed existing nomograms or calculating devices in clinical use as well as a battery of leading machine-learning techniques in predicting pathological staging of prostate cancer for patients.”

Throughout the project, Alin and the team at IDEAS had monthly meetings with their medical partners to ensure their requirements were consistently met in order to develop a robust system.

Alin adds:

“The patient data can be explored for a greater understanding of the scenario. Multiple factors can be defined and compared to observe how the likelihood of selected outcomes is influenced by changes to the ‘known’ attributes. The system is general and flexible enough to be applied to any domain where data can be used to support and improve decision-making so it could also be used to treat other illnesses.”

Professor Samuel McClinton, a Consultant Urologist at NHS Grampian who worked with Robert Gordon University on the research, commented:

“This project is part of our drive to help patients with prostate cancer understand their diagnosis and be part of the decision making process about their treatment. The collaboration between the Department of Urology at ARI and scientists at RGU has lead to this exciting and innovative new approach to counselling patients. We look forward to continuing our work with them and developing further aids for our patients.”

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is now planning to trial use of the software as part of its patient care services.


Source: Robert Gordon University