New study shows power of AI in matching patients to trials

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The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre says a new study has demonstrated the potential for artificial intelligence to help reduce the time for clinicians to match lung cancer patients to relevant clinical trials.

The clinical trial participation rate among Australian adults is estimated to be around only 2-3 per cent. There are more than 1,000 new trials registered in Australia every year with increasing complexity around the recruitment of patients. 

IBM Watson for Clinical Trial Matching – an artificial intelligence technology that helps optimise trial recruitment at the point of care – took available patient data and matched each patient to 10 potential trials, achieving 92 per cent accuracy as compared with manual clinician matching, said the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in a statement.

The study, published at the recent American Medical Informatics Symposium, used past records of 102 lung cancer patients who had recently attended clinics at the centre and consented to their data being used for research.

“Cancer patients want to access new and experimental therapies and the best way to do this is through clinical trials,” said Dr Dishan Herath, oncologist and Co-Chief Medical Information Officer at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. “However, trial criteria are becoming increasingly complex, making it difficult for clinicians to navigate these criteria quickly and this can lead to patients missing out.”

“As confirmed by this study, AI has great potential to automate this process and help reduce the time needed to match patients with trials for which they may be eligible,” said Dr Herath.

IBM Watson for Clinical Trial Matching is being used in practice around the world achieving 78 per cent reduction in patient-trial match screening time and 84 per cent increase in average monthly trial enrolment.

Primod Govender, IBM Watson Health Leader for Australia and New Zealand, said where previously clinicians would spend hours manually searching through charts to match patients with the best clinical trial for their specific condition, this study reinforces the impact that AI can have in optimising this process. 

“We are excited to work with Peter Mac in bringing more innovation to the research and clinical trial process and look forward to extending this work further,” said Govender.

The research was led by Dr Herath and fellow clinician researcher, Marliese Alexander, in collaboration with IBM Watson Health.