March 23, 2020

Artificial intelligence by CWI and Amsterdam UMC proposes the best radiation plans in clinical practice for the first time

CWI researchers at Amsterdam Science Park, together with the department of radiation oncology of Amsterdam UMC, have developed software based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) that quickly proposes multiple radiation treatment plans for each patient.

The software functions as a type of ‘route planner’ for the doctor: it presents multiple plans based on the data of the patient that represent trade-offs between giving sufficient radiation dose to the tumor with as little damage possible to the surrounding organs. This not only helps the doctors to make plans faster, it will also improve plan quality. Amsterdam UMC has treated the first patient with a plan proposed by the new AI on March 17, 2020. The innovative technique will be used for the treatment of prostate cancer with internal radiation.

Unique collaboration
The development of the new software was made possible by a close research collaboration between CWI’s Life Sciences and Health group, the department radiation oncology of Amsterdam UMC-location AMC, and Elekta, a company that delivers radiation equipment and software to hospitals. The team decided to develop software for this problem with a form of AI (evolutionary algorithms) at its core. These algorithms are very suitable to effectively and efficiently search for good solutions to complex problems, especially when there are multiple conflicting goals to be achieved.

The team especially focused on a form of evolutionary algorithms that arise from Bosman’s long-running research line. These algorithms display intelligent search behavior. They have the ability to analyze a certain problem and subsequently teach themselves how they can come up with better solutions for that problem. The research team made special adjustments to search for configurations of treatment plans in the case of brachytherapy for prostate cancer as good as possible. They did that by letting the algorithm use knowledge about the build-up of radiation dose from the inserted catheters. Ultimately, much better results could be booked with this algorithm than with other algorithms.

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