AI Tool Decodes Brain Cancer’s Genome During Surgery
Real-time tumor profiling can guide surgical, treatment decisions
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At a glance:
New AI tool enables in-surgery genomic profiling of gliomas, the most aggressive and most common brain tumors.
This information offers critical clues about how aggressive a cancer is, its future behavior, and its likely response to treatment.
The tool can provide real-time guidance to surgeons on the optimal surgical approach for removal of cancerous tissue.
Scientists have designed an AI tool that can rapidly decode a brain tumor’s DNA to determine its molecular identity during surgery — critical information that under the current approach can take a few days and up to a few weeks.
Knowing a tumor’s molecular type enables neurosurgeons to make decisions such as how much brain tissue to remove and whether to place tumor-killing drugs directly into the brain — while the patient is still on the operating table.
A report on the work, led by Harvard Medical School researchers, is published July 7 in the journalMed.
Accurate molecular diagnosis — which details DNA alterations in a cell — during surgery can help a neurosurgeon decide how much brain tissue to remove. Removing too much when the tumor is less aggressive can affect a patient’s neurologic and cognitive function. Likewise, removing too little when the tumor is highly aggressive may leave behind malignant tissue that can grow and spread quickly.
"Right now, even state-of-the-art clinical practice cannot profile tumors molecularly during surgery. Our tool overcomes this challenge by extracting thus-far untapped biomedical signals from frozen pathology slides," said study senior author Kun-Hsing Yu, assistant professor of biomedical informatics in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS.